Service by sea - Shipping as LCL (Less-than-Container-Load) Shipments
When you use the services of an international freight shipping company, you are most likely using the services of LCL. LCL is primarily synonymous with “consolidation”. It is a service in which you share the container with other exporters/shippers and pay for the space you use. If you shop around for rates by contacting a few international movers, you will soon become familiar with the term “cubic meter”. Ocean freight is calculated by the volume, with the minimum volume being one cubic meter. (One cubic meter of pure water weighs one ton.) Thus, service by sea is not cost-efficient if you are shipping a very small amount. Consolidation services are available from Japan to major destination countries around the world, such as the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many European and Asian countries.
Full Container Load (FCL) sea shipments
When you have a shipment that is large enough, FCL will be an option. You would perhaps need to ship at least 10 cubic meters or so. While LCL services are available from Japan to the USA, Australia, and many countries in Europe, there are a number of destinations for which LCL services are not available. Even for such destinations, FCL may be available
This mode of transport is suitable for a relatively small amount of goods. The minimum is 45kgs. Although we say that this is the minimum weight, just like the minimum of one cubic meter for sea shipment, we do not mean that shipments weighing less than 45kgs cannot be accepted. There are rates available for shipments under 45kgs, but they are not discount rates. Therefore, it is less expensive to ship *as* 45kgs unless the shipments weigh, say, only 5kg or 10kg.
Good examples of international courier companies are DHL, UPS and FedEx Express. Courier services are typically door to door and include the services of customs clearances at the countries of departure and destination, with the exception of China, where one must hire one’s own customs broker. Rates are normally available from 0.5kgs and different rates are often offered for shipments containing only documents. FedEx Express offers air cargo services in addition to courier services. FedEx often calls cargo shipments “over size”. Courier service is suitable for sending a relatively small amount of stuff. Courier companies are reluctant to handle unaccompanied personal effects, and if you contact them directly, you will notice that they will tell you they will not handle personal effects because of potential problems with customs clearance at the destination. (They typically handle general merchandise, purchased items, or documents).
Our company is an agent for some of these courier companies, and discount services are available, i.e., if you make an arrangement through us, you will incur considerably lower charges than if you applied through them directly. Depending on the destination, personal effects can be shipped as well.
Needless to say, sending by Japan Post is the most well-known method of shipping one’s belongings. Most people would use surface mail rather than air mail or EMS when shipping personal stuff. Perhaps Japan Post’s surface mail is most cost-efficient when you are shipping a very small amount such as when shipping just one or a few cartons. There are weight and size restrictions, so you are not able to send heavy or large items via post office.
In addition to the above shipping methods, there are *hand carry onboard courier services* and ro-ro shipping for cars, but I am excluding these on this page because the topic is how to ship one’s personal belongings home economically from Japan.
So, there are basically five ways to transport your goods from Japan.
・Aside from postal services, the faster the transportation method, the cheaper it is for smaller shipments. By this, I mean that if you are shipping, say, 2kgs of stuff, door-to-door courier service is the cheapest option and offers the shortest shipping time. On the other hand, if you are shipping 250kgs, it is definitely cheapest to ship as LCL sea freight.
・Customs clearance is easier for courier shipments than for air freight, and easier for air freight than for sea freight. This is because, in general, courier shipments are smaller than air cargo shipments, and air cargo shipments are smaller than sea shipments. Customs offices are more concerned with large shipments than with small shipments.
For expats leaving Japan, we offer services by air, services by sea (LCL and FCL), and courier services. For courier services, we can typically offer discount rates on shipping via DHL as economy service, although it takes a few more days for delivery than when you make arrangements with them directly and use normal services.