LCL shipping from China to USA – Learn the costs involved and other important facts

Looking to do some importing and use LCL shipping from China to USA? Then you are looking to use the most cost-effective method when it comes to international freight. LCL shipping costs a lot less than air freight, however it takes longer to transit.

LCL means “Less than container load”. LCL describes the freighting of shipments by sea where the shipment does do not use the full capacity of a 20 cubic meter shipping container. In fact, LCL is the best option for shipments with volumes less than 15 cubic meters. This simple guide will help you:

  • Find out about the costs you can expect
  • Know what to expect in terms of shipping transit times
  • Get answers to some of the frequently asked questions

Costs involved with LCL shipping from China to USA

The costs for LCL shipping from China to USA comes in two parts: the first is the ‘Chargeable Volume’ and the second is from the ‘Bill of Lading’.

Calculating costs from “Chargeable Volume”

Chargeable volume is where the volume of the shipment in cubic meters is compared to its weight-based volume. Whatever is the greater of the two will be used to calculate the cost of shipping. This ensures that shipments containing bulky or dense items are costed correctly.

In this example the gross volume of the shipment is higher when it is compared to the volumetric weight. This is what happens in general and means the shipping fits to the norm.

The measurements of the shipment are as follows:

  • Length = 45 in
  • Width = 40 in
  • Height = 35 in
  • Weight = 1500 lbs

Calculate volume

Volume = length X width X height = 45 in X 40 in X 35 in = 63,000 cubic inches

Convert volume to metric

61,024 cubic inches = 1.00cbm

So 63,000 cubic inches = 1.032 cbm

Work out weight-based volume

1 lbs = 0.4536kg

So 1,500lbs = 680.4kg

Weight based volume = Actual weight (in kilograms) / 1000 = 680.4 kg / 1000 = 0.68 cbm

Compare volume with weight based volume

Volume vs Weight-based volume = 1.032 cbm vs 0.68 cbm
Chargeable volume is the greater value which is 1.032 cbm.

Converting to metric

When doing all these calculations it is essential to convert all lengths, volumes and weights to metric in order to make them work.

More examples

Read our article on “Dimensional weight or volumetric weight for LCL shipments: Why is this necessary?” for detailed examples and calculations.

How chargeable volume plays a role in the cost of LCL shipping from China to USA
How chargeable volume plays a role in the cost of LCL shipping from China to USA

Calculating costs from the ‘Bill of Lading’

Whether you are required to pay the ex-work charges below depends on the exact commercial terms you have worked out with the supplier of the goods you are importing.

Ex-work charges

This includes costs involving:

  • Transport of goods from supplier to port
  • Customs clearance at port of origin
  • Cargo lodgement and documentation

International freight charges

The additional international freight charges that LCL shipments can incur include:

  • Bunker Adjustment Factor (BAF) – Cargo ship fuel surcharge
  • Peak season surcharge (PSS) – Increase when in peak shipping season
  • General Rate Increase (GRI) – Standard increase which occurs around time of PSS
  • Currency Adjustment Factor (CAF) – Exchange costs for currency conversion

Local handling charges in the USA

When being unloaded at port in the USA the LCL shipment may incur a number of local fees as well as any taxes. The port service charges are billed similarly to freight chargeable volume and include:

  • Unloading the container from the ship
  • Transport of the container from wharf to the container freight station
  • Unpacking the container at the container freight station

US Customs Clearance

The cost of processing and lodging documents and managing the process of clearing your goods through US Customs.

Importer Security Filing Fee
The Importer Security Filing Fee is usually included but itemised in the Customs Clearance fee. The fee is for lodging a ’10+2′ advance cargo report and has to be received by US Customs. It only applies to sea freight and includes LCL shipments. The lodging has to occur at least 24 hours before the shipment arrives at the US port otherwise hefty fines will be issued.

Custom Bond Fee
Bonds are required for shipments valued over US$2,500. You can pay an annual bond from US$450 to US$550. Or you can Single Entry Bond from US$50 up to three times value of shipment.

Centralized Examination Station Fee
If your goods happen to be in a shipping container that is examined by US Customs and Border Protection you will be charged a fee by the Centralized Examination Station (CES). Not all containers are examined however if the container holding your goods is examined you have to pay the fee that is charged. The fee consists of many factors and can be several hundred dollars. Personal effects are not exempt from this fee if an examination occurs.


The delivery of your goods to your door is made via road transport in one of three ways:

  • Forklift is used to unload truck
  • Manual unloading where labourers are required
  • Tailed lifts that lower cargo from truck to ground level

How Bill of Lading plays a role in the cost of LCL shipping from China to USAHow Bill of Lading plays a role in the cost of LCL shipping from China to USA

Frequently asked questions

What documents are needed to process my LCL shipping request?

In order to process an LCL Shipping from China to USA request, we will usually require you to supply us with the following documents:

  • Commercial Invoice
  • Packing Declaration
  • Packing List (optional)

Feel free to call us toll-free at 1-877-901-2004 or send a message online to double check if these are all the documents you need to submit.

How long will shipping take to USA?

Use our transit times table for LCL shipments from China to USA It allows you to find the ports nearest your supplier in China and destination in the USA to work out the expected shipping time. Don’t hesitate to phone us on 1-877-901-2004 (toll-free) or send a message if you want a copy.

What additional costs could be incurred if things go wrong

It is good to be aware of additional fees that may be incurred if things don’t go quite to plan.

Storage fees

Shipments have a seven-day grace period to clear the port area. If the shipment is delayed beyond that, storage fees will be charged until it has cleared customs and exited the port. Storage fees are hefty and can quickly exceed the value of the shipment.

What should I not ship into the USA?

Anything that is prohibited should not be imported into the USA. Some products may also require an import permit. It is always best to check with us prior to shipping to avoid any unwanted surprises.

LCL shipping transit times from China to USA

We have a table of LCL shipping transit times from China to USA. Contact us on 1-877-901-2004 (toll-free) or send a message if you would like a copy of the table.

There for you if you need help

Hopefully you found our guide of value. If you are looking to use LCL shipping from China to USA and want a freight forwarder to help, get a free online quote  or feel free to contact us online and  send a message . You can even message us on Facebook.