Should I ship FCL or LCL?

Many importers and exporters struggle to determine whether to ship via FCL or LCL. There are numerous reason for and against both options and each must be reviewed and applied to your specific shipment's needs.


FCL, Full Container Load

The most common sea freight containers are 20'GP, 40'GP, and 40'HC. Each provides a guaranteed amount of space for shipper or consignee to fill with cargo if shipping by FCL. FCL cargo typically contains cargo from 1 shipper and 1 consignee, with one Bill of Lading issued for all freight held within the container. FCL is considered faster than LCL as freight does not need to be consolidated with other shippers at origin, or segregated from other consignee's cargo at destination. One party is responsible for the entire cost of the container to move from Port to Port via FCL.


LCL, Loose Container Load

LCL is a term used to describe a method of consolidating freight from multiple shippers destined for multiple consignees. Freight must be consolidated with other cargo at origin and then segregated at destination prior to delivery to consignee. It is unknown to both the shipper and consignee, what other cargo will be consolidated with theirs. Because of this, one runs the risk of consolidating with harmful goods such as liquids which increases the possibility of damage. Additionally, because LCL must undergo consolidation and segregation, the additional handling of freight increases the potential of damage. However, because freight is consolidated and the rate for the container is prorated among multiple shippers/consignees, cost to the purchaser of goods tends to be much less than if freight were to ship FCL with potentially wasted and unused space.

If economics is your main concern, LCL freight will be most cost effective method of shipping. However, there will always be a tipping point where LCL ceases to be cheaper than FCL and is typically determined by larger volume.


If you are looking to reduce the potential of delays and damage, FCL is more effective than LCL. You are not at the mercy of other's ON TIME ISF filing and you do not need to worry about other cargo damaging your own.


It is important to have a knowledgeable freight forwarder review all options and their advantages/disadvantages with you. Also, each shipment must be reviewed individually as no two shipments are the same

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