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FCL vs LCL Ocean Freight Shipping: Differences, Pros & Cons

You might hear about FCL vs LCL shipping if you have experience in importing and exporting your goods. This article will shed light on the differences between FCL vs LCL logistics, and also clarify their benefits and drawbacks. Thus, you can arrive at a proper decision on a more beneficial shipping option for your business.

1. What is FCL vs LCL?

FCL and LCL shipping are two common terms used in the international logistics industry for export and import freight cargo by sea.

  • FCL = Full Container Load
  • LCL = Less than Container Load

FCL logistics is a method of transporting goods in which your shipment occupies a full container (of any size). LCL logistics refers to many shipments sharing container space. It means if your cargo doesn’t require a full container capacity, it needs to be combined with other importers’ LCL shipments and then transported within a container. That’s why LCL shipping is also known as ‘Consolidation’ or ‘Groupage’.

2. Compare FCL vs LCL

Transit time

It is obvious that LCL shipping takes more time than FCL shipping due to consolidation and deconsolidation. To be specific, the service companies have to group many shipments, classify and pack them into containers, then arrange transportation for the goods from the port of loading (POL) to the port of destination.

lcl takes more time and complex process than fcl
LCL shipping has a more complex process and takes more time than FCL shipping

During the customs clearance process, if there is an issue with a certain shipment, it may affect all importers who have cargo in that container, and cause delayed deliveries. Meanwhile, FCL shipments don’t need to be loaded and unloaded together with other shipments, so its transit time is usually one or two weeks faster.

Shipping costs

Normally, LCL costs more than FCL per unit of freight. LCL cost is calculated primarily by volume, usually in cubic meters (CBM), which means the more space you need, the more you pay. Freight agents and shipping lines prefer a full container load (FCL) — it’s much easier for them than calculating how individual shipments can fit in a full container.

lcl shipping prices lcl cost more than fcl
FCL vs LCL shipping prices: LCL costs more than FCL per unit of freight.

Per unit, the costs of LCL shipments are costly as they include additional logistics and management charges regarding shipping multiple goods in one container. According to Freightos, LCL price quotes from freight forwarders entail:

  • Pickup: the cost of picking up your goods from the warehouse or factory.
  • Origin: your LCL shipments need to be loaded onto containers along with other shipments, or consolidated, at a Container Freight Station (CFS), also referred to as container stuffing.
  • Main leg<