When shipping via sea-freight, you can either fill a container (FCL) or share a container (LCL). But what’s the difference and what is best for your shipment? That depends on a few factors outlined below.
What is FCL?
FCL (full container load) is when you use an entire container to transport your goods. When shipping FCL, there is a flat rate for the container, and you fill it entirely with your own shipment.
What is LCL?
LCL (less than container load) consolidates multiple suppliers shipments into a shared container. This allows businesses to move smaller stock quantities and pay for the space they use instead of for an entire container.
LCL and FCL Pros and Cons
Neither method is superior; it just depends on which is more suitable for your needs. What is more appropriate depends on the size and volume of your shipment. There are advantages and disadvantages for each depending on your situation and budget. We’ve made a list of pros and cons for each below to help you decide which method is best for your business and freight requirements.
Flexibility: FCL is straightforward and direct with the transport operator and is entirely customised to your individual needs.
Safety: FCL is less likely to damage goods as the container is packed with just your goods and not opened until it reaches its destination.
Speed: FCL has a faster delivery typically when compared to LCL because customs and inspections processes are more straightforward when all the goods belong to a single supplier.
High costs: You pay for the entire container usage, which often is more expensive than LCL.
Unfit for small shipments: FCL is not suitable for exporters with smaller cargo volumes.
Low costs: By shipping your goods LCL, costs are shared with other suppliers shipping in the same container.
Inventory holding minimized: Due to the possibility of shipping smaller volumes, LCL helps reduce the cost of keeping a high inventory of goods.
Higher likelihood of damages: There may be a higher chance of damaged goods as you have no say over what else is shipped in the same container. The container may be opened, unloaded, and loaded again at various port locations, increasing the possibility of damage to goods.
Delivery speed: Once an LCL shipment arrives in port, the different parcels inspected and documents matched. For this reason, LCL shipments usually take longer to pass customs.
Financial considerations will heavily influence the choice of shipping method, however, suppliers must also consider security. With grouped shipment, loading and unloading operations at possibly various ports may give more opportunity for damage, loss, or theft of goods. Clients who need secure transport prefer to use FCL as the container is sealed after loading and will not be opened again until it arrives at its destination.