In the logistics world, both full container load (FCL) and less than container load (LCL) refer to shipping sea and ocean freight. The key difference between these two types of container shipping lies in cargo volume. With FCL, the entire shipment transported in a container belongs to one owner, whereas LCL shipments combine goods owned by different parties in one shared container. At Eurosender, we will guide you through LCL versus FCL pros and cons and will help you make the right choice for your business needs.
SIZE & WEIGHT
Typical shipping container dimensions are 20 ft and 40 ft. LCL shipments are usually the best fit for cargo occupying less than 15 cubic metres, the minimum chargeable volume being of 1 cubic metre, while FCL is recommended for loads exceeding 15 cubic metres.
The approximate capacity of a 20’ container is 33 cubic metres, and that of a 40’ container ranges between 67 and 76 cubic metres. The maximum acceptable weight per cubic metre equals to 1 ton (1000 kg). Weight allowance might differ from one container to another.
FCL is usually a better option for urgent shipments vs. LCL, as the cargo takes less time to arrive. LCL freight implies more handling, consolidation, and longer customs clearance than FCL. This is due to additional steps necessary for LCL, such as loading, unloading, document processing, and sorting goods for each receiver. Therefore, LCL shipping is always slower compared to FCL sea & ocean freight.
When comparing LCL vs. FCL charges, one needs to understand that prices depend on the distance, volume, season, container type, as well as consolidation, and other additional charges.
Even though shipping an entire container may seem expensive, when weighing up LCL vs. FCL freight options, the shipper must know that with LCL the price per unit (cubic metre) is much higher than with FCL, the cost of which is calculated based on flat-rate. On the other hand, LCL price is generally less subject to fluctuations than FCL price, as it mostly depends on the handling cost.
While FCL is usually booked for bulk items and large volume products, LCL is all about consolidating numerous parcels and pallets provided by different shippers.
LCL shipments need to be properly packed to be easily separated from other cargoes within the same container. Less than container load shipments undergo a complex pre-exports freight consolidation procedure involving different groupage operators. Once the cargo is consolidated, it may need additional offloading at an intermediate (transhipment) point before being trucked to the port of export. Upon arrival at the port of discharge, all LCL shipments will be deconsolidated.
FCL has fewer intermediary points on their way to destination if no additional container examination is required. Once the freight is loaded, the container is sealed and trucked to the port of export. In some cases, additional container examination can be required. The doors of the container will not open until it arrives at the destination port. Therefore, they arrive faster.
FCL is a safer sea and ocean freight shipping option for delicate cargo, as one shipper has complete control over the container contents. With LCL, the container is shared by several shippers and multiple cargo types, including those that could be potentially damaging for the fragile load. Due to more handling and loading/unloading necessary for shipping LCL freight, this logistics solution is a better fit for non-delicate cargo types.
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When comparing LCL vs. FCL freight container shipping, always take into consideration the key factors relevant for your business, such as FCL vs. LCL shipping time, costs, the number of pallets, their weight, as well as load fragility.
The advice below will help you make the right decision:
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