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What Happens Once Your LCL Shipment Arrives At Port

So you’ve hired a freight forwarder to import your shipment. That’s just the first step in the long journey your cargo will take. The operational processes carried out during the shipment’s transportation are many. You probably know the most common steps: document confirmation, customs clearance, and so on. But there’s much more involved when your smaller shipment (anything under a full container load) arrives.

Let’s remember that freight forwarders choose the carriers, or shipping lines, with whom they will ship a container. They also pick the customs broker agent, if they don’t provide that service themselves, and many other 3PL (Third Logistics Parties). The shipping line carries out the biggest part of an import: the ocean freight and the loading and unloading at origin and destination. But when there are LCL (Less-Container-Load) shipments, the import process is not as simple as many importers might think. Let’s look at a summary of the process of an LCL ocean shipment when it arrives at its port of destination.


After confirming authorization from the port, a container ship docks at its assigned berth next to port cranes that unload containers from the ship. The crane work and other activities are carried out by many dockworkers, including lashers, clerks, and cargo equipment operators. These people work together to perform the logistics miracles of efficiently transporting containers across the berth and preparing them for the next step in the journey.
After the unloading of those containers, customs officials may decide to inspect certain containers. This process is sometimes random, and sometimes it’s based on each container’s documentation.
Time at the port can be very expensive, therefore every importer must have their documents ready for the forwarder. Costs incurred by delay can be transferred to the importer.
Once a container is cleared from inspection, it is loaded onto a chassis or a truck trailer and transported to the forwarder’s warehouse or distribution center. The transportation is normally done with trucks unless the distance is so far that the forwarder hires train services.

Relocation and Devanning

The container arrives on the truck at a distribution center. This center is sometimes called CFS (Container Freight Station). The container is opened to be sorted (devanning) and the boxes are separated and prepared for shipment to their individual owners, the forwarder’s clients.

Customs Clearance

An import declaration is made at the CFS. It is also possible that the clearance is done at the port before the container departs, but that depends on several circumstances. You can learn more about the process for customs clearance in our article Customs clearance for imports: how does it work?


The last part of the shipping process is the actual delivery of the cargo to the importer. This transportation can be carried out by a local transportation company chosen by the importer, or by the freight forwarder.
Small importers sometimes decide to pick up their cargo directly from the CFS. It is important to know that the cargo might be on a pallet, so pickup trucks are the best vehicles for this. If the car is small, additional time is needed to disassemble the pallet and stuff the car with the boxes.

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