Navigating the Seas of Commerce

Consider the five oceans and seven seas of the world. They’re the mighty cargo super highways of our planet with ocean-going vessels covering the globe, from Singapore to Tanzania. These ships move the products that keep our industries running, make our lives more comfortable, and even put food on our tables. As globalization and the growing global economy integrate and expand business connections, you need a smart and efficient import-export plan.

Is your business expanding into international waters? Whether you like it or not, the answer is yes. This means you need solid knowledge of ocean shipping. Shapiro offers two modes of ocean freight: LCL (less-than container load) and FCL (full container load). Which one is best for you and your company? Let’s take a look at each.

Ocean LCL Shipping

In the complex world of ocean freight shipping, less-than-container load (LCL) can also be referred to as “groupage.” The goods you are shipping are combined with cargo from one or more other companies so that the whole shipping container is filled. This means you are not renting an entire container for your goods; you are only paying for the actual space your materials require. This is why they call it “groupage” though shipments are almost never called “groupies” for some reason. Anyway, your cargo is literally “grouped” and stowed with that of other businesses shipping their products at the same time.

When using LCL ocean shipping, it’s important that the volume of your shipment be correctly calculated. Weight alone doesn’t offer enough information to determine the amount of space your cargo will take in the portion of the shipping container allocated for your goods. Your fees will be determined by a combination of both the weight and the volume of your cargo.

Why would you choose this option? If you’re a smaller company trying to move smaller shipments, or if you ship to customers in many destinations in individual packages, then you may save money and total transit with LCL. The downsides? LCL ocean shipping requires that the origin point being considered has a consolidation warehouse. This allows the shipping company to combine orders from two or more companies into that single container. There are constraints on port availability, since not all cities have these facilities.

Additionally, the presence of other companies’ shipments can increase the risks of damage, delays (due to Customs exams) and pilferage. The damage risk stems from the fact that “bowling balls, ping pong balls, and ball bearings” may all travel together. It is vitally important to pack your goods for a bruising journey with some large and heavy fellow travelers. The delay risk stems from having multiple parties in the box. The greater number of players, the more likely that one of those players will be targeted by a government agency for exam. Exams cause delays. And, the theft risk stems from the fact that most consolidation warehouses are quite large, public, and full of people coming and going. This can make your cargo more vulnerable to thieves.

Ocean FCL Shipping

Full container load (FCL) is one of the few shipping terms that sounds like what it is! With an FCL plan, you are booking the space of the entire container for your cargo alone. Your products won’t be sharing space (or playing video games while eating junk food) with any cargo from other companies. Ocean shipping containers come in a variety of sizes, making it possible to choose the best size for your purchase or sale. Typical ocean shipping container sizes include 20-foot containers, 40-foot containers and 40-foot high cubes; they are 8 to 10 feet tall. Choose wisely and make sure your warehouses know what “blocking and bracing” means! (Hint: we can assure you that it has nothing to do with American football or good dental care.)

Don’t worry too much. You don’t have to match your shipment to the container size exactly. Also, just because you have booked the entire container doesn’t mean that you have to fill it completely. Even with FCL shipping, partial loads are fairly common. It is a best practice to consider the inside dimensions of a container when configuring the (sturdy) packing of your goods to maximize the use of the space. And, it doesn’t take a “perfect” storm to imagine the kinds of motion that a container will endure as it travels those five oceans.

What are the advantages of FCL shipping? Shipping FCL, even if you don’t completely fill the container, saves you on consolidation and deconsolidation fees — the cost of combining your cargo with that of a group of shippers and then making that shipment available again once the container arrives. It also limits the time your physical cargo is handled, and typically reduces your overall transit time, since it takes time and labor to consolidate and deconsolidate shipments. Packing your goods in the most efficient way can also save you money. The fewer the packages, the smaller the container and thus freight spend your shipment will require. The likelihood of a government exam slowing your total transit are also lessened since there is only one company in the container.

Ready to Ship? Shapiro’s Got You Covered

When it comes to international ocean shipping, Shapiro has the expertise and options you need. We pride ourselves on moving your FCL and LCL cargo safely, intelligently and cost-effectively. Your business is vital to our well-being, and we watch each and every one of your shipments closely while helping you choose the best designs for your business.

Here are a few of the ocean FCL & LCL services we offer:

  • Ocean Full Container and Less-Than-Container Loads — of course!
  • Origin Consolidation Services
  • Deconsolidation Services
  • Booking Management
  • Carrier Management
  • Cargo Insurance
  • Logistics Design
  • Customs Brokerage
  • Sea-Air and Air-Sea Shipping

Let Shapiro help you chart the choppy waters of international ocean shipping. When you’re ready to raise your anchor, give us a call!