Shipping Less Than Container Load and Full Container Loads


If you’re considering shipping items via sea freight, you’re going to hear the terms LCL and FCL used a lot. For those who have never used sea freight shipping before, these terms can be confusing. LCL stands for Less Than Container Load shipping while FCL is short for Full Container Load. Most people would assume that they would ship items LCL if they don’t have enough freight to fill up an entire container and they would use FCL shipping if they can fill or mostly fill a shipping container. However, there are a number of differences between these options that you do need to understand.

How LCL Works

If you’re not purchasing a huge amount of product or if what you’re buying is fairly small, you may not need an entire shipping container to yourself. Rather than ship containers that are mostly empty, the freight company will combine a number of small loads into one container. What this means is that LCL doesn’t truly involve a container that’s less than empty. However, because your cargo doesn’t take up the entire container, you aren’t charged as much.

LCL shipping is generally calculated based on the amount of the shipping container your cargo takes up. If your cargo takes up very little space, you can save a lot by shipping it LCL. On the other hand, if it takes up most of the shipping container, you will actually pay as much or more than you would for FCL shipping.

Shipping FCL Even If the Container Is Not Full

When considering where to get sea freight services, you should also consider if you should ship FCL instead of LCL even if you don’t have an entire container of product. In many cases, large LCL shipments actually cost more to ship than purchasing an entire container, even if you only need to fill about half of that container. That’s because FCL shipping is done at a flat rate. It doesn’t matter how much you place in the container: you still pay the same amount.

Overall, it costs more to ship each unit if you use LCL shipping. If you have a small amount of product, it still makes sense to use this method. If you have enough to take up half the container or more, though, going with FCL is usually the more cost-effective method.

Other Reasons to Ship FCL Instead of LCL

When you ship something LCL, it’s likely to take longer at the port of destination because the container has to be opened and the shipments divided first. FCL shipments, on the other hand, are delivered to you right away. This is one reason why LCL costs more per unit to ship. It takes additional work to unload and sort the cargo. There is also some additional work for you, too. Any product shipped LCL has to be clearly marked with an identifying mark so that it can be easily sorted when the container is opened. If you don’t do this, your cargo will not be accepted, which can lead to a delay in shipping.

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