Like many websites, Shipa Freight uses cookies to personalize your browsing experience.

Shipa freight

Container Shipping to Canada

FCL and LCL freight forwarding: information and online quotes

Effortless ShippingEffortless Shipping
Real-Time TrackingReal-Time Tracking
24X7 Customer Support24X7 Customer Support
Updated on 29 Aug 202210 min read

If you are looking to make imports to Canada via container shipping, being aware of all regulations, customs clearance requirements, and technical matters can help make the process a world easier and help you achieve a seamless import.

In this comprehensive guide, we lay down everything you need to know about container shipping from Canada, your shipping options, and more.

What are your options for container shipping to Canada?

For container shipping to Canada, you will need to avail of ocean freight. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. To ship by sea, your cargo can either be transported by Less than Container Load (LCL) or Full Container Load (FCL) freight services.

Less than Container Load (LCL) to Canada

Less than container load (LCL) shipping is when your goods are consolidated with other consignments from other sellers. This is a good option for smaller quantities of goods and is highly economical because your cargo will occupy a shared container. The only downside is that your cargo may not arrive in Canada at the fastest time, considering that the ship will have to wait for other cargo to fill the 20-foot container.

Full Container Load (FCL) to Canada

In a full container load (FCL) freight service, your cargo is shipped alone in a 20-foot container. You will have to shoulder the cost of the entire unit, but you can also enjoy the benefits of isolation for your goods. Because of this, FCL is perfect for fragile goods that require more careful handling.

Because FCL ships your cargo alone, it doesn’t need to wait for other consignments to occupy the container. Hence, you can get your cargo faster compared to the average duration in an LCL freight.

How much does it cost to ship a container to Canada?

There are a lot of factors to consider to determine the total cost of a container shipment to Canada. These include:

  • What type of goods you are shipping
  • Whether you choose FCL or LCL
  • The size and volume of your cargo
  • The distance of the port of origin and destination port
  • Your delivery option: door-to-port, port-to-door, or door-to-door delivery

To get a more accurate estimate of your shipment cost, request a quote from your freight forwarder.

If you’re shipping cargo less than 100kg, air freight may be a good option. However, do keep in mind that freight forwarders do not handle shipments with a volume of less than 35kg. These small-scale shipments can be transported by international couriers instead.

What type of cargo can be sent in a container?

The great thing about shipping by sea is that you have more liberty as to what type of cargo you need to ship to Canada. While air freight has some regulations and limitations, ocean freight can accommodate goods of any nature, such as:

  • Dried Food
  • Dry bulk cargo
  • Gas-based fuels like LNG, CNG, crude oil, petroleum, and volatile fuels
  • Machinery, equipment, and factory parts
  • Motor and non-motor vehicles

Ocean freight also allows you to ship large quantities of cargo at once, with a 20-foot container able to accommodate up to 10 standard pallets or 11 Euro pallets.

How long does it take to ship a container to Canada?

Cargo vessels that transport container shipments to Canada typically move at an average speed of 19 nautical knots (35km per hour), which means that ocean freight can be a much slower process compared to air freight. Other factors also come into play, such as whether your goods are shipped via LCL or FCL, the distance between your port of origin and destination port, and whether the trajectory of the vessel is direct, or if it is scheduled to have multiple stops on the way to Canada.

On average, ocean shipments to Canada can take around 11 to 53 days at most. Here are some examples of shipping durations from various locations:

Country of Origin LCL or FCL Average Duration
Australia LCL 32 - 49 days
Australia FCL 44 - 45 days
Belgium FCL 13 days
Brazil FCL 18 days
China LCL 27 - 33 days
China FCL 17 - 36 days
Columbia LCL 53 days
France FCL 17 days
Germany LCL 21 - 25 days
Germany FCL 15 days
India LCL 20 - 42 days
India FCL 28 - 51 days
Indonesia FCL 34 - 41 days
Italy FCL 14 - 57 days
Malaysia FCL 40 days
Mexico LCL 57 days
Mexico LCL 26 days
Netherlands FCL 16 - 17 days
Singapore FCL 32 - 33 days
United Arab Emirates LCL 50 - 56 days
United Arab Emirates FCL 38 - 43 days
Vietnam LCL 38 days

What container capacity do I need for my cargo to Canada?

It depends on the freight service you opt for, whether LCL or FCL. If you choose LCL shipping, it’s recommended that your cargo fits less than six standard pallets or has a volume of no more than 15 CBM as anything beyond that may have a cost similar to FCL.

If you opt for FCL, you are not limited in terms of size. Because you are availing of the entire 20-foot container to ship to Canada, you can ship cargo of any size, volume, or nature you need, as long as it does not exceed the container’s capacity. If it does, you can opt for breakbulk shipping.

Which mode of ocean shipping should I choose, FCL, LCL, or Break Bulk?

How your cargo will be shipped to Canada, whether via LCL, FCL, or Break Bulk, would depend on some factors such as the size and volume of your goods, the nature of your goods, and your priorities. Here are some things to consider when making your decision.

Less Than Container Load (LCL) Shipping to Canada

Less than container load shipments are consolidated with other cargo to occupy the space in a 20-foot or 40-foot container. Because of this, LCL can take longer, require more handling, and is best for smaller quantities of goods.

You can choose LCL freight services if:

  • Your goods are small in size or quantity
  • You don’t mind waiting a while for your shipment
  • You are fine with your cargo being consolidated with goods from other shippers
  • However, it would be in your best interest to avoid LCL if:
  • Your goods can be damaged by frequent moving and handling
  • Your cargo is fragile, high-value, or perishable
  • You want your cargo to arrive in Canada faster than you would with LCL shipping
  • You are shipping in large sizes/ quantities - beyond 15 CBM

Full Container Load (FCL) Shipping to Canada

On the other hand, it’s best to select full container load freight services if:

  • You want your goods to arrive in Canada faster or they need to arrive on or before a specified date
  • You are shipping in large quantities or your goods are big enough to fill the capacity of a 20-foot container
  • Your cargo is delicate and fragile and requires less handling
  • You want your cargo to be isolated during shipment
  • Your goods have a high volume

Break Bulk

Cargo of large sizes or heavy volumes that cannot be accommodated in a 20-foot or 40-foot standard container needs to be shipped in breakbulk. Breakbulk shipping is when your goods are loaded and transported individually instead of intermodal.

Customs Clearance in Canada

Any cargo that arrives in Canada needs to be cleared by local customs. As such, you will need to have your paperwork ready to meet the requirements of Candian customs. These include:

  1. Commercial Invoice
  2. Packing List
  3. Certificate of Origin
  4. Letter of Credit/ other payment terms (depends on the contract between the parties)
  5. For ocean freight: Bill of Lading. For air freight: Airway Bill (to be provided by Shipa Freight)

Some customs agencies would require other documents depending on the nature of your cargo. You might be asked to provide additional documents like certificates, permits, and licenses. Check out our complete documents list to learn all about customs clearance requirements and see examples of the paperwork you need to provide.

Which Incoterms would be the right choice for my shipment?

Incoterms help determine your liability when exporting or importing goods. When it comes to container shipping to Canada, you need to familiarize yourself with the following Incoterms:

Incoterms for Exporters

CPT (Carriage Paid To): The seller or supplier is responsible for arranging transport and paying all costs if the buyer engages the services of a freight forwarder to transport the cargo.

CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid To): Similar to CPT, except the seller is required to provide minimum insurance coverage.

DAP (Delivered At Place): Liability ties with the seller until the cargo arrives in the agreed destination. Upon arrival, liability and responsibility transfer to the buyer.

DDP (Delivery Duty Paid): The seller/ supplier is in charge of arranging transport, providing the needed customs clearance documents, and shoulders the import or export fees.

FCA (Free Carrier): The seller is required to load the cargo in the shipping carrier. Upon loading, the responsibility is passed onto the buyer.

Incoterms for Importers

FCA (Free Carrier): The seller is required to load the cargo in the shipping carrier. Upon loading, the responsibility is passed onto the buyer.

EXW (Ex Works): All responsibility is on the buyer when the cargo leaves the seller’s premises.

Processes to follow to ship a container to Canada

Beginning your shipment with a freight forwarder can help ensure that your shipping process runs smoothly. They can provide you with all the information and requirements you need to successfully import to Canada.

A freight forwarder is also in charge of consolidation if you opt for LCL shipment, arranging the loading of your cargo to the container. The standard unit will need to be filled with consignments from other sellers before it leaves the port of origin.

After consolidation comes the process of fumigation, which helps ensure that pests, termites, and other living organisms are killed. Fumigation is conducted by a certified agency who has obtained approval from the proper licensing authority.

When the cargo arrives in Canada, it goes through customs clearance, which should be a breeze if you have the right documents and requirements. Then comes deconsolidation of your shipment if your cargo was shipped via LCL.

After the whole process, you can pick up your cargo in the destination port or wait for it to arrive if you avail of door-to-door delivery.

Main container ports of arrival in Canada


Situated on Lake Ontario, the port of Toronto provides easy access to over 25% of the total population of Canada. The port allows quick distribution of goods to consignees located in Brampton, Hamilton, Markham, and Mississauga.

Owner: Ports Toronto Annual Container Volume: Unknown UN/LOCODE: CATOR


Located in Quebec, along the river of St. Lawrence, the port of Montreal is 1,600 km in distance to the Atlantic Ocean and only 17km away from the Montreal Trudeau Airport. The facility offers the shortest shipping route into Canada for shipments coming in from North America and Europe. The port of Montreal has three cargo terminals, which handle more than 2,000 vessels annually.

Owner: Montreal Port Authority Annual Container Volume: Over 1.6 million TEUs UN/LOCODE: CAMTR


The port of Vancouver is situated at the mouth of the Fraser River and provides easy access to the areas of Burnaby, Delta, Kerrisdale, and New Westminster. It serves as a gateway into Canada for over 170 global trading economies. Cargo traffic in the port of Vancouver is expected to triple by the year 2030.

Owner: Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Annual Container Volume: Over 3.3 million TEUs UN/LOCODE: CAVAN

Why Ship a Container to Canada With Shipa Freight?

Shipa Freight can help you ship your container to Canada with ease! We are a digital-first freight forwarder, making it easy for all businesses and shippers to ship to Canada. Our digital consignment features allow you to get quotes, book your shipment, and pay all in one platform to simplify the entire international shipping process.

  • Some benefits you get when working with us include:
  • 24/7 customer support via phone, email, and online chat
  • Assistance with shipping documents and consignment needs
  • Expert advice on customs clearance and simplifying the process
  • Compliance with international shipping rules and regulations
  • And more.

Get started with your shipment to Canada with Shipa Freight today.

You may also like