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FCL vs LCL: Which One Is Better

Sep 07 2022

If you are considering shipping any amount of goods via ocean freight, you will soon discover FCL and LCL shipping and wonder which is the most ideal for your cargo. In this article, we will clarify the differences, advantages, and disadvantages between FCL and LCL ocean freight shipping in terms of several factors. As a result, you can make the right decision about the shipping option that will be more beneficial for your business.

What are FCL and LCL?

FCL and LCL shipping, two common terms used in the international logistics industry, are the two main shipping modes available for importing and exporting freight cargo by sea.

Full Container Load (FCL): Transport your cargo in full and sealed containers. That means your goods occupy the whole container of any size.

Less Than Container Load (LCL): Your goods are not enough to fill a container, and cargoes from serval customers are put into the same container.

In brief, sharing container space with other cargoes - if your cargo does not need the full container capacity in the ocean container ship, it needs to be combined with LCL shipments of other importers and then transported within a container. That is why LCL shipping is also called "consolidation" or "groupage."

What are the differences between FCL and LCL?

Shipping Costs

Shipping costs are one of the major factors to consider when deciding whether to ship FCL or LCL. Typically, LCL costs more than FCL per unit of freight because they include the additional logistics and management charges of shipping multiple goods in one container. However, as for the stability of container shipping rates, FCL shipping rates are more volatile than LCL shipping rates.

* LCL tends to cost more because of the volume-based charges, usually in cubic meters (CBM) for your cargo, which means that the more space you need, the more you pay.

For FCL, you must pay the price of a full container, whether your shipment fills the container or not. Forwarders and sea route shipping lines prefer FCL since it's easier for them than figuring out how individual shipments will fit into a full container.

Shipment Volume

Shipment volume is usually the decisive factor when selecting FCL or LCL shipping, which refers to the capacity occupied by the cargo being transported, measured in cubic meters or cubic feet.

LCL shipments are usually better for low-volume shipments between 2 and 13 cubic meters. While for higher-volume shipments over 13 cubic meters and above or more than 10 standard pallets, choosing FCL is often more cost-effective, even though you may not completely fill the container.

However, this guideline does not always work in some cases. If you are unsure whether to ship FCL or LCL, please seek professional advice from a reliable freight forwarder.
ocean container ship
ocean container ship

Transit Time

Obviously, LCL shipping is a more complicated and time-consuming process than FCL, including the time required to consolidate all shippers' shipments, sort, load, unload and separate cargo at each port.

In addition to transshipment, LCL shipments are more prone to delays because of the multiple handling during shipping. LCL shipments must be unloaded and loaded each time they arrive at a transshipment port. In contrast, FCL takes much less time as the entire shipment is delivered directly.

Therefore, for urgent shipments or shipments that need to arrive by a fixed date, FCL is usually a better option. And LCL is more suitable for shipments with flexible dates.

Cargo Security

LCL: Since multiple types of cargo are packed in one single container, LCL brings a higher risk of damage and loss. Your goods may be packed with other liquids, heavy or odorous goods when the cargo is in transit or may cause damage such as contamination, spillage, damage, etc. However, LCL may be a safer option for smaller shipments, as they are more compactly packed with little room to move.

FCL: Full container shipping tends to be safer because it has exclusive rights to the entire container. Different from LCL shipments, cargo is handled much less, leading to less risk of damage, theft, or loss. There is also no contact with other shippers' cargo, reducing the risk of damage or contamination from other commodities.


All in all, choosing FCL or LCL depends to a large extent on the purposes and the actual conditions mentioned above. And an international freight agent can greatly support and handle all hassles for you! Please feel free to contact for more details about ocean container ships.

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