Why does ocean freight take so long?

International ocean freight is an immense undertaking involving many companies, governments, and countries. Here are the steps your goods go through when they travel on a cargo ship across the ocean:

1. Loading up a cargo ship

Goods are at the origin port’s container freight station (CFS) for 3-7days (depending on if the goods are a full container load (FCL) or less than a container load (LCL)) prior to vessel departing. 

Shipping LCL takes more time since pallets from multiple places need to be grouped to fill the container and get it on the ship. FCL goods are already loaded into the container and ready to be loaded onto the vessel.

Occasionally, China has crackdowns at their ports which can delay departure up to a week.

2. Ocean transit 

Cargo ships travel at a speed around 24 knots (aka 27 mi/hour). Typically, a cargo ship coming from China to the Port of LA will take about 14 days in transit. 

Depending on the time of year, port congestion can cause delays at the beginning or end of a trip. 

3. Unloading a cargo ship

After they’re unloaded, It takes about a week before goods can be picked up and trucked to their final destination. The first five days are spent getting the container cleared through customs, then the goods go to a warehouse to be sorted. 

In the U.S., random customs checks can add up to a week. 

4. Last mile transit

Lumi will arrange the last mile of your shipment. We’ll coordinate with a local courier to get your goods onto a truck and on their way to your warehouse. 

In the U.S., this last leg of transit can take up to a week from coast to coast. Shipments may take longer if other goods in the container aren’t processed with the right paperwork. 

Watch Lumi co-founder, Jesse Genet break down the ins and outs of imports and exports, right from the Port of LA.

Can't find your answer?

We’re here to help. Get in touch and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Contact support →