Unnecessary trips for cargo that isn’t yet ready end up costing you a lot of money. If you’ve worked in the shipping industry for a considerable amount of time, you know that any unnecessary activities cost your team money, time, and resources.
That said, the ocean shipping process can be a bit illusive if you’re not entirely aware of all the steps involved and how long everything takes. If you are importing a product to the U.S., one of the most important steps to time correctly is picking the cargo up from the port. Easy right? Just look at when the vessel will land on U.S. soil and send a drayman in to pick it up!
Well… not quite.
Picking Up Cargo from the Ocean Port
Here is the gist – your container is not going to be ready for pickup simply because the ocean vessel has arrived at your port. The process takes time, and depending on whether you’re shipping FCL or LCL, the time frame for when your cargo will be ready for pickup will be different.
Here is an overview of when your cargo will be ready for pickup from the ocean port for both Full Container Load and Less-Than-Container Load shipments!
FCL Cargo: Ready for Pickup
As you’ve probably figured out by now, FCL is always quicker. There’s less steps involved regarding consolidation and deconsolidation, and also less parties finger-printing your cargo as it moves from origin to destination. The same benefits apply to pickup ready dates at ocean ports.
FCL cargo will be available for pickup after it is unloaded from its ocean vessel and placed at the destination port’s container yard. But this doesn’t happen the same day your cargo arrives on U.S. soil.
Ocean vessels are carrying upwards of 20,000 TEU’s, meaning unloading is quite the process. Depending on port congestion, the number of vessels coming in, staffing, and the quantity of shipments aboard an ocean vessel, unloading can take anywhere from 1-3 business days (although there are instances such as in the case of LA/Long Beach port congestion where upwards of 2 dozen ocean vessels sat at the port awaiting unloading.)
After 1-3 business days (usually), the container will be unloaded and brought to the destination port’s container yard where it will be labeled as “ready for pickup.” At that point, you or your freight forwarder can send in a trucker/drayman to pickup the container!
LCL Cargo: Ready for Pickup
LCL cargo is a little bit different. It gets packaged, then sent to a warehouse, then loaded on a container with other peoples’ cargo, sent to another warehouse, deconsolidated, reconsolidated… you know the story. LCL takes a lot of trips before it finally gets to its destination, and those extra time delays don’t stop after it arrives on U.S. soil!
As is the case with FCL cargo, when LCL containers arrive at the port, they are not ready for pickup. The ocean vessel must onload all containers, which takes roughly 1-3 business days. But while FCL cargo is sent immediately to a container yard after unloading, LCL cargo has one more step – a pitstop at a Container Freight Station (CFS).
A Container Freight Station is where LCL cargo is brought to be deconsolidated so each individual shipper’s cargo can be picked up by truckers for delivery to its destination.
It will take an additional 1-2 business days for cargo to be transported from the port to a CFS, and then usually an additional 1-3 business days for the cargo to be deconsolidated and labeled as “ready for pickup” from the CFS.
In other words, FCL cargo usually takes a max of 3 days after arrival to be ready for pickup, whereas LCL cargo could potentially take up to 8 days before it’s ready for pickup. If you haven’t been considering switching, let that be one more reason to consider switching to FCL shipping!
Every shipment is unique, and there’s not a simple answer for why your cargo may not be ready for pickup. Peak seasons, specific ports, modes of shipping, the carriers you use, weather disasters, and other unforeseen circumstances can all play into cargo ready date delays.
If you’re confused about a current shipment, have questions about future shipments and your shipping process, or would just like to ask questions and bounce ideas off of us, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our team members! We’re responsive and have tons of experience handling ocean freight. We’d be happy to answer all your questions!