LCL and FCL Shipping: Which is right for your business?

LCL and FCL Shipping: Which is right for your business?
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LCL (Less-than-Container Load) and FCL (Full-Container Load) are how your business will mainly ship cargo across international waters. Learn how your business can benefit from both.

LCL (Less-than-Container Load) and FCL (Full-Container Load) are international shipping methods used to transport cargo from one country to another. Apart from air shipments, LCL and FCL are how your business will mainly ship cargo across international waters.

This blog post will explore these two types of shipments in detail to help your business benefit from both.

What is LCL shipping?

LCL shipping, which stands for Less-than-Container Load, is when multiple shipments are consolidated into a single container to be shipped to the destination port. LCL is a more cost-effective option for small businesses that do not have enough cargo to fill an entire container. LCL shipping typically requires additional handling and documentation at both the origin and destination ports, which can add to the cost and lead time of the shipment.

What is FCL shipping?

FCL shipping, which stands for Full-Container Load, is when a single party rents an entire container and exclusively uses it for their cargo. International freight is standardized to 2 container sizes: 20-foot containers and 40-foot containers. FCL is a more efficient and cost-effective option for larger businesses with enough cargo to fill an entire container. FCL shipping typically involves less handling and documentation at ports, which can save time and money.

How are shipping costs calculated?

Shipping costs are primarily calculated by volume. Weight is also a consideration, but a minor one since container ships can handle large weights. Another factor affecting shipping costs is the distance between the port of origin and the destination port.

LCL costs are usually quoted as $ per volume, or $/CBM (cubic meters), the volume of products you are shipping. You can ship anywhere from 1 CBM to 15 CBM under LCL shipping. A 20-foot FCL can hold around 33 CBM of goods, while a 40-foot FCL can hold about 67 CBM and 40-foot HQ can hold up to76 CBM of goods.

It is prudent to check shipping costs frequently for LCL and FCL rates change periodically. On Ship4wd’s platform you have access to instant shipping quotes and the option of locking in your quote and container allocation 45 days ahead.

Factors to consider when shipping goods

Price, however, is only one factor to consider when shipping goods internationally. Let’s look at a few other considerations that may or may not change your decision since there are some key implications regarding LCL vs. FCL shipping.

LCL shipping can be a more affordable option for small businesses, but getting the cargo from point A to point B may take longer due to the additional handling and documentation. Keep in mind that a container is shared between multiple shippers in LCL, so loading and unloading times can be significantly higher since there are multiple touchpoints for a shipment. Also, because there can be a wide variety of products in a single container when shipping LCL, there is a higher probability of customs detaining the container for secondary investigation. It may or may not be because of your goods, but your goods may be delayed.

Additionally, LCL shipping may damage cargo since it may be loaded and unloaded multiple times before reaching the final destination. Loading and unloading could also compromise the security of your cargo since the container seal may be opened by another party before your goods are offloaded from the container.

FCL shipping is more efficient on a per unit/per CBM basis, but it can be more expensive overall, especially if you utilize only part of the container when shipping. Other FCL advantages include faster transit times (only one shipper’s goods are loaded in a single container, so loading and unloading will only typically happen at 1 location). FCL shipping also comes with greater security and lower chances of damage – since the container will be sealed at the loading facility and will be opened at the shipper’s destination facility.


A good freight forwarder will offer additional services when shipping LCL/FCL:

  • Pick up from your manufacturer/destination of origin;
  • A strong network of logistics providers and different options to transport your shipment from the port to its destination (small parcel, LTL, FTL);
  • Visibility into real-time transit progress/delays;
  • Flexible payment terms; and
  • Strong costumer support.


Ultimately, the decision between LCL and FCL shipping will depend on factors such as cargo volume, budget, and transit time requirements. It is important to consider all these factors and partner with a reliable freight forwarder to make the best choice for your business needs.

If you have further questions, contact us at Ship4wd and one of our experts will advise you on the best choice for your needs.


We at Ship4wd are dedicated to helping small and mid-sized businesses get the most out of their shipping processes. With our platform, businesses can quickly view and compare shipping quotes, find the best options that suit their needs and make a booking in just a few clicks. Throughout the booking process, small and midsize businesses will have our experts’ support. Regardless of their experience in logistics, business owners can count on us to get their shipments to where they need them. 

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