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LCL Shipments

A Shared Solution for Small International Moves

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Don’t have much to move, but nothing you can leave behind? Welcome to the world of small moves! Small moves can quickly become expensive when it comes to overseas shipping and container space. Now we’ve all heard it before, ‘sharing is caring’ –but when you opt for a shared move with an LCL shipment, some cares you can leave behind. Curious about how this works? Don’t worry, we’ll explain the ins and outs of the whole process. 😉

Small Moves Overseas: What to Do?

Many soon-to-be expats increasingly find themselves with fewer, but more precious possessions to move overseas. Nowadays it’s generally cheaper to replace something than to move it, so carrying out a move of just a few items may not be the smartest idea. Nonetheless, you might be dead set on taking your few belongings with you. No problem, this is still totally possible – you can carry out a small move!

However, small moves can cause big problems (ironic right?). This is mainly because the mode of transport isn’t always ideal. Air freight is wickedly expensive and ocean freight deals in shipping containers – so what happens if you can’t fill up a whole container?

Shared Container Solutions: LCL Shipments

To cater to more compact needs, many international moving companies have become small move specialists, offering shared or group moves (called an LCL shipment, or ‘less than container load shipping’).

If you’re willing to allow someone else’s possessions to travel alongside yours, then LCL freight is there as an affordable way to bring your belongings with you to your new life abroad. So don’t worry, not all hope is lost!

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FCL vs LCL: Should You Share Your Move?

If you’ve never moved abroad before, you’ve probably never heard the terms FCL and LCL before (not exactly trendy terms). These two terms stand for ‘full container load’ and less than container load, respectively.

We’ve briefly discussed these options already in our article covering container shipping rates, and as the names suggest, these indicate full or partial container loads.

Because you take up less space with an LCL shipment, they are much cheaper than FCL shipments (which is why most should opt for shared moving services). If only it were so simple that we could stop there, but we still need to give you the heads up on a few extra technicalities!


To know if you should opt for a shared moving service, you’ll first need to know how much space you need to fit within the size requirements. With less than FCL load, your budget will thank you for sharing. Thus, if you’re moving volume puts you just above the LCL shipment requirements and you’re on a shoestring budget, our expert advice is that you consider downsizing (it’s hard, we know, but you’ll save yourself quite a few bucks!).

If you’re still unsure if your move needs the LCL shipment requirements, we’ll help you out. In a matter of minutes our moving space estimator can get you an approximate range. Score!

Once you know your needs, see how they fit into the three common standard container sizes and discuss your options with your small load movers of choice:

  • 20ft container (32m3, or a one-bedroom apartment)
  • 40ft container (67m3, or a three-bedroom home)
  • 40ft high container (for especially tall items)

Sirelo Tip! If you can mostly fill up a 20ft’er, you should. For the added premium you’ll skip the sharing process and make life much easier.


If you’re going to opt for a shared container, your container-mate needs to be heading to the same place. In almost all cases an LCL shipment has a longer delivery time than an FCL shipment.

Therefore, if your moving schedule isn’t as flexible as a yoga instructor, sharing might not be for you.

Sirelo Tip! The more popular the route, the shorter the delay – You might imagine that it’s easier to arrange shared container shipping to the UK than to Tanzania!

Cargo ship loading containers at port

Pros & Cons of LCL Shipments

Now that you’ve got the technicalities of LCL shipments under your belt (well done, by the way 👌), we can boil it all down to the main ups and downs. By now we all know that LCL shipments, although handy, sadly aren’t for everyone. So let’s just dive right in:


  • Less expensive (by a lot)
  • Multiple space preference options
  • Flexible moving dates
  • Small load movers are specialized


  • Takes longer to ship
  • Added coordination can be stressful
  • Extra risk of damage
  • Often you have to load/unload yourself

Preparing Your LCL Shipment: 3 Easy Steps

Now that you’ve decided on an LCL shipment, the next set of considerations will show you how best to prepare for a smooth move. Of course, this depends on how much most shared moving companies will do and how much you’ll do yourself.

Nonetheless, to make sure you’re prepared like a total expert, we’ve put together a quick guide. 😉

✅ Pre-loading

If your small load movers pick up and drop off your possessions, you can also request that they package your items for you. Therefore, your job is to get ready for the big day:

  • Carefully prioritize your items and downsize accordingly. Not sure where to start? No sweat, our handy downsizing guide has your back!
  • Record everything (everything!) you’ll bring
  • Don’t add/remove anything from your final list

✅ Loading

Suppose your mover brings you the container, but you’re expected to load it yourself. Limber up,! Since moving companies for small moves typically leave the heavy lifting to you!:

  • Prepare your items to be loaded onto pallets (Think square, sturdy, and better safe than sorry 😅).
  • Efficiently load the shared container so that nothing will have to be repositioned later.
  • If you load second, check that nothing from the other person might fall over.

Stacked moving boxes on pallets

✅ Pickup

Shared moving companies offering door-to-door moves come straight to your new home. If you order a door-to-port move, you’ll have to be ready on the other side to collect your things:

  • Don’t get on a plane before your items ship, but definitely be there when they arrive!
  • Inspect that nothing has been (tragically) broken, misplaced, or stolen.
  • Report any issues or claims with your moving company.

With an LCL shipment, it is more likely that you’ll have to pick up your own things. If they come directly to you, most shared moving services will first offload your items at a warehouse into a separate truck.

This added handling gives all the more reason why you should put serious effort into sturdy packing.

Last Few Things to Keep in Mind

International moves aren’t known for their smooth sailing. When carrying out an LCL shipment, the standard hassles of container shipping apply – plus a few extras. To make sure ocean freight won’t leave you seasick with your things marooned, we’ve listed some tricky points below:

  • Customs: Overseas freight marked as carrying separate loads are more likely to be detained by customs agents at the port of arrival. Tip: Double (or maybe triple) check that you have all the proper documentation.
  • Damage: You have no control over what your container-mate is shipping or how they pack. They might be playing Jenga instead of Tetris, so there is an increased risk of damaged items. Tip: Check for shared load moving services that handle all loading/unloading themselves.
  • Minimums: Maybe you don’t need shared container shipping at all (wouldn’t that be great?). With LCL minimums at one cubic meter, anything less is better shipped by air. Tip: This applies double to uncommon destinations!

Fully loaded container cargo ship

Now You Should Be All Set!

To sum up, the main benefit of shared moving services is that more companies are becoming small load movers. While not always ideal, LCL shipments ensure that even the most minimalistic among us can bring cherished possessions around the world.

As long as you prepare well and expect the unexpected, you can focus more on exploring this next chapter of your expat life!