How to Ship Multiple Different Products in the Same Container

Posted on 11 Comments

combined container

Do you order small volumes from many different suppliers? You might be wasting thousands of dollars on exorbitant LCL shipping fees.

In this article, I explain how much you can save by combining your shipments in one single container – and the 4 step process for doing so:

  • Step 1: Buy according to FOB or FCA terms from all suppliers
  • Step 2: Coordinate delivery to the same forwarder warehouse
  • Step 3: Make sure to sync production between suppliers
  • Step 4: Combine the cargo as one DAP or DDU shipment


This article is heavy on ocean freight terminology, so I strongly suggest that you read these two articles first:

Combined shipments can save you a lot of money

When it comes to sea freight, there are two types of shipments:

FCL: Full Container Load

One container with goods for one importer. This is the cheapest option, counted on a per unit basis.

LCL: Less than Container Load

‘Mixed’ containers carrying goods for several importers.

LCL can be 2 to 3 times more expensive, per shipped unit, compared to FCL. This can be explained by the fact that the administrative cost (which makes up a big part of the total shipping cost) is as high for an LCL shipment as an FCL container.

Hence, you can save quite a bit of money if you combine several individual LCL shipments into one single FCL shipment.

LCL Example

Let’s assume that you are shipping 4 LCL shipments:

#TermsVolumeEstimated cost (To Los Angeles)
1FOB Shenzhen 4 cbm$710
2FOB Shanghai2 cbm$460
3FOB Qingdao7 cbm$1265
4FOB Xiamen5 cbm$830
Total18 cbm$3265

By comparison, an FCL 20’’ container, from Shenzhen to Los Angeles, cost around $1500.

By coordinating these 4 shipments, you could therefore save as much as $1765. This further reduces the customs value, which lowers your total import tax bill.

Now, I’ll explain how that works.

1. Buy according to FOB or FCA terms from all suppliers

Your cargo cannot leave the country without export clearance documentation. There are two ways you can obtain these documents:

Option A: Order FOB or FCA

FOB stands for Free on Board (Export documents and shipping to the port), while FCA stands for Free Carrier (Export documents, no shipping).

Each supplier will provide export clearance documents.

Option B: Order EXW

The suppliers will not provide the export clearance documents. Instead, this is managed by the freight forwarder.

The second option can be complicated, as the export documentation shall normally be issued by the supplier. This is not always easy when it comes to lithium batteries, and other hazardous goods.

2. Coordinate delivery to the same forwarder warehouse

All shipments must be forwarded to the same port of loading. You can do this in two different ways:

Option A: Order according to FOB terms

This means that each supplier book transportation to the port of loading, for example Shenzhen. The FOB charges vary, depending on how far the goods must be transported.

When you ask for a ‘regular’ FOB quote, the supplier quotes based on the closest port.

Hence, you need to instruct the supplier to:

a. Provide an FOB quote that includes transportation to a specific city
b. Make sure that they declare that port as the port of loading

Option B: Order according to FCA terms

FCA includes the issuing of export clearance papers, by the supplier, but the cargo is not transported from the factory to the port of loading.

Instead, the freight forwarder picks up the goods at each factory, and brings each shipment to their port warehouse.

This is the most effective method, if you ask me.

This also allows you to make sure that the goods are properly insured, when transported from the factory to the port of loading.

3. Make sure to sync production between suppliers

Manufacturers have a tendency to delay orders. Sometimes for weeks.

If one supplier delays production, all other shipments will be delayed.

While it’s impossible to predict exactly when the production is finished, you need to sync your orders to avoid long term delays.

As such, products with longer lead times must go into production, several weeks before those with shorter production run times.

You should also have at least a 2 week buffer for potential delays.

4. Combine the cargo as one DAP or DDU shipment

Once all shipments arrive in the port of loading, the forwarder can load the goods in the same FCL container.

The forwarder must also issue the bill of lading, commercial invoice and packing list.

This is based on the export clearance documents issued by each supplier, or by the forwarder itself.

This can take a few days extra when involving many different suppliers.

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  • 11 Responses to “How to Ship Multiple Different Products in the Same Container

    1. kishore kumar at 12:00 am

      hi, i’m shipping different products from the same province. would they automatically be consolidated?

    2. Shan at 6:31 am

      Hi Fredrik,
      Thank you very much for sharing the information. Do you know how to process various chemicals from multiple suppliers? Do you have any good forwarder? Thank you.

    3. Ketan Doshi at 6:50 pm

      Hi

      I have purchased multiple items at ex factory price

      1. Fans 2 : Zhongshan, Guangdong
      2. Shower doors # 6 and vanity7 with 6 mirrors and 2 bathroom cabinets : Foshan City Guangdong
      3. HOme theater screens # 2 screens and home theater seats # 16 : Guangzhou, Guangdong
      4. Copper hoods Hood# 2 , large copper mural 6 x5 feet, 4 hood insert vents : Zhangzhou, Fujian

      I would like forwarder to pick them up, do all export paper work, load and ship it to me, and deliver it to me in america, could you suggest some good forwarder?

      Thanks.

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 6:10 pm

        Hi Ketan,

        You can try Flexport.com or Freightos.com

        1. kishore kumar at 11:59 pm

          hi, i’m shipping different products from the same province. would they automatically be consolidated?

          1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 7:11 pm

            No, I would not make that assumption. You need to instruct your freight forwarder to ship the cargo in the same container.

        2. Sérgio at 5:50 am

          Hi Fredrik,

          Here is freightos reply:

          Can I search for multiple origins or multiple destinations?

          Shipping from Multiple Origins

          If you have goods at two different factories in the same geographical area (ie, in the same city), we recommend that the factory that has the smaller of the two shipments delivers the goods to the second factory. The receiving factory can then combine them into one shipment.

          Note: Additional charges will apply, since the goods are palletized together and because two separate customs clearances will be performed and thus charged to your account after pick-up.

          Therefore they do not combine shipping from different suppliers. I have asked DHL if they can do it.

            1. Andy D at 1:04 pm

              Hi Fredrik,

              Thanks for sharing this helpful knowledge!

              Regards

    4. Yusuf at 10:16 am

      Hello,

      Do you also help ship mix items FCL to Dubai – UAE?

      What are your service charges?

      Regards,
      Yusuf – Dubai

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 8:25 pm

        Hi Yusuf,

        Yes, I don’t see why the UAE would be different in that regard.

        I suggest you check out Freightos.com.

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