Transport is a key feature in any import activity. Nevertheless, the choice between sending the goods in a dedicated container or as part of a consolidated shipment is not always clear and making the wrong decision may reduce the chances of managing a successful purchasing job.

Choosing a consolidated shipment does not only depend on the volume of the goods, but also on our available budget for the transport part of our purchasing project.  This has become an especially critical topic in recent times, because since the start of the pandemic transport costs from China have increased substantially and companies have been facing an unexpected rise in their import costs.

In this context, many businesses have been wondering if it is really worthwhile to ship goods in a dedicated containers or rather, on the contrary, whether it is better to move the merchandise with the use of a consolidated shipment, which may be much more economical.

LCL (Less than Container Load)

Sending our imported goods in a consolidated shipment, i.e., with a shared container means that a single container unit may hold merchandise from a variety of different suppliers, going to a variety of different customers, not only for us.

This method, known as LCL, is the most commonly used way for companies importing small volumes and/or for those who wish to avoid spending too much on the transport part of their overseas purchasing activities.

Even the way how the shared container will be loaded, may have an impact on the overall cost. In some cases, suppliers send the goods to the shipping company’s warehouse; in other cases, they will send the merchandise to the warehouse of the main supplier (i.e., the one handling the largest volume corresponding to this particular shipment). When all suppliers are geographically near to each other, the shipping company itself might pick up all the goods and take them to its own warehouse.

FCL (Full Container Load)

This option allows us to have a container exclusively for our own goods; this implies that we do not have to share our space with other importers, offering inevitably a number of advantages.

Although initially this option may seem to be the most expensive one, on average for shipments larger than 15 cubic meters, the FCL alternative is the best one.

Two additional advantages of choosing full container loads are security (our goods will go alone in the sealed container, whether it is full or not) and speed (the goods will leave directly from the supplier’s warehouse to their respective destination, without interruptions nor additional handling).

Quality Control and Other Transport Recommendations

As sourcing professionals, we note that one of the factors our customers most value is the trust related their import activities.  Therefore, and in order to make sure that the goods will be loaded in perfect conditions into a container (dedicated or shared), it is essential that previously the appropriate quality control inspections have taken place, making sure that the products will arrive in optimal conditions.

It is important to be aware of both compulsory as voluntary inspections, in order to detect potential issues with our purchase and to minimize risks in the final stage of the import job.

Additionally, it is also important to realize that transport is a critical step in any import activity, meaning that, even though this part ends up costing a bit more than foreseen, it is worthwhile to invest in trust and to control other factors as well, like e.g., customs management, import duties and/or the corresponding insurance policies.

Even though in the last few years the transport costs have gone up drastically, as sourcing professionals we are always prepared to offer our customers several options that will allow them to make their import activity as profitable as possible.

Choosing between a dedicated or a shared container is only one of the many decisions to be taken, while managing an import job.  In this sense, to be able to count on an integral sourcing service – as offered by S3 Group – helps businesses not only to take those decisions correctly, but also to optimize their resources in order to achieve a clear competitive advantage in the market.