The Difference Between LCL and FCL Shipping

What Is FCL And How It Works?

If shipper books an FCL (Full Container Load) container then shipper owns exclusively full container. FCL is owned by one shipper, the cargo in the container need not have fully loaded cargo in the container. Let the cargo be half loaded or quarter loaded container, if booked by one shipper under one shipment, the said shipment is called FCL shipment.

Advantages of FCL Shipping:

More cost effective when transporting over 15 cubic meters (approx half cubic space of 20ft GP container)

More cost effective than air freight (although longer transit time)

Generally faster transit (compared to LCL) due to less general handling and unforeseen delays

High security and fewer risks of damage to the cargo because container is handled less

Disadvantages of FCL Shipping:

Not cost effective unless shipping more than 15 cubic meters (in a 20ft GP container)


What Is LCL And How It Works?

Under an LCL cargo, where in a shipper does not have enough goods to accommodate in one full container, he books cargo with a consolidator to console his goods along with goods of other shippers. This type of shipment is called LCL shipment. The said consolidator arranges a fully loaded container, and consoles the shipments of other shippers and deliver each shipment to final destination by separating each shipment at final destination.

Advantages of LCL Shipping:

Most cost effective for consignments not suitable for FCL

More cost effective than air freight (although longer transit time)

Best transportation method for small volume shipments

Smaller orders reduce inventory investment and allow shippers more flexibility

Disadvantages of LCL Shipping:

More expensive per cubic meter when compared to FCL

Possible delays waiting for other consignments being grouped in container

Possible delays at customs due to other companies cargo (incorrect documentation etc)

Cargo can be damaged in transit if other consignments not correctly packaged or packed into the container


There are a number of advantages / disadvantages for both LCL and FCL container shipping. If you are a small to medium sized company and do not have enough inventory to fill a standard container then it is recommended that LCL will be the most cost effective method of shipping. If you are a large company with enough stock to fill a full container then FCL transportation is the way to go.