LCL vs. FCL

Ocean transportation is the most cost effective way of shipping goods overseas. The majority of the consumer and industrial goods are shipped these days in standardized universal or specialized metal containers transported by international container shipping lines. The shipping lines offer scheduled, normally weekly, services between major ports worldwide.

There are two ways of shipping your dry goods in containers: as a Full Container Load (FCL), when you fill at least one container with your goods, or, as a Less-Than-Container Load (LCL), when your shipments are grouped (consolidated) with shipments of other customers inside containers. FCL is an obvious choice when a single shipment volume requires multiple containers and SC Integrators offers very competitive rates and dedicated customer service for FCL shippers. But what if the shipment size is smaller? We have summarized below some considerations to help you choose between LCL and FCL transportation modes.

Full Container Load (FCL)

  • lower cost than LCL; as a rule of thumb, makes economic sense for 16 cubic meters (CBM) of cargo or more
  • up to two weeks faster than LCL; the container is directly shipped from the shipper’s facility to the consignee
  • transit time for transpacific shipments can be as fast as two-three weeks
  • the safety of the cargo is higher, since the cargo is not transloaded, and not shipped with other cargo that may have different transportation requirements; normally, the consignee receives the container under the seal attached by the supplier

Less-Than-Container Load (LCL)

  • 4-5 times, on average, cheaper than airfreight; normally makes economic sense for shipments as small as 0.5-1 cubic meter (CBM)
  • smaller volume and more frequent LCL shipments help to reduce inventory, free capital and be more responsive to demand fluctuations
  • transit time for transpacific shipments can be as fast as three-four weeks
  • customs examinations, if take place, are faster and less expensive