Differences Between FCL & LCL

Differences Between FCL & LCL
May 8, 2020 Aldo Flores
A full container ship docked at a shipping port.

Full container shipping can be an easy shipping solution under the right circumstances, but for some freight, it may not be the best option. When an FCL shipment doesn’t make sense, LCL shipment provides a similar service but at a price point that may work better. Both types of container shipping can be efficient when done professionally, but there are some trade-offs for that price that you need to be aware of. They can make a huge difference in cost-effectiveness for your cargo.

Container Shipping

In container shipping, large metal cargo boxes that start at 20-feet long are loaded onto transport ships and secured for shipping across oceans. FCL stands for full-container load, which means that your property is loaded into a single container by itself, with no other shipper’s goods. LCL, or less-than-container-load, means that your property is loaded into a container with another shipper’s goods until the container is filled to maximize its space.

The Practical Differences Between FCL And LCL Shipping

When handled professionally, both are great ways to securely transport your cargo. They travel on the same ships, and from the outside LCL and FCL shipment containers look exactly the same. For the shipper, however, there are some key differences:

  • Price — Whether you’re moving household goods or inventory, price is a motivating factor in any shipping decision. Full container loads are priced by the container. As long as you don’t exceed the maximum weight, you can ship as much or as little as you want in your square footage, it costs the same for a single matchbox as for an entire household’s worth of property. LCL shipments, on the other hand, are priced according to the amount of space they take up in that container, usually at a higher rate per item.

    The result is that FCL shipment may be less expensive if your items fill most of the container, even if space is left over. LCL shipping, on the other hand, while priced higher per item, may be more cost effective if you’re using only a small portion of a container.

  • Touch Vs. No-Touch — With a full container, you or your agents will load and seal the container before it is shipped. When it reaches its destination, the receiving party is the one who unseals and unloads it. With LCL shipping, your cargo is delivered to a consolidator. They’ll load it into a container with property from other shippers and seal the container. At the destination, the full container will be unloaded, the cargo separated, and it will be ready for further shipment as arranged by you or the receiving party.
  • Timing — If a deadline factors into your shipping, then a FCL shipment may be the better choice even for a smaller load despite the price tag. By avoiding shipping to the consolidator, the time it takes to consolidate, and then transportation to the port, you can shave days off the time it takes to get your cargo on its way. On the other end of the voyage, a full container offers the same benefits as it has no need to go through a consolidator’s warehouse for unloading prior to being delivered to the receiving party.

A bulk freighter used for LCL and FCL shipments underway.

Your Logistics Solution

With over three decades of experience as a Non-Vessel Owning Common Carrier (NVOCC), we’ve helped our customers arrange for the shipping and transport of all types of cargo from coast-to-coast and around the world. Whether you need a full container to give a classic car the protection it needs for safe transport, or to ship household goods LCL to give your family a familiar home environment in a new country, we’re ready to put our expertise to work for you.

We’re licensed, bonded, and insured, so you can rest easy knowing your property is in the hands of the right professionals. Get the import/export help you need for smooth shipping wherever your property needs to be. Contact Trans Global Logistics for a free shipping quote today.

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