The Difference Between FCL and LCL Container Shipping

FCL and LCL Shipping Containers

When it comes to container shipping, there are two main options to choose from:

Full Container Load (FCL) and Less than Container Load (LCL). 

Both options (FCL and LCL) have pros and cons. So how do you go about choosing the right option for your shipping needs? 

Let’s get you up to speed. We will cover everything you need to know about the differences between FCL and LCL shipping.

If you need assistance with FCL or LCL container shipping, it’s best to get in touch with a professional. EES Shipping in Perth, Western Australia, offers total logistics solutions, including sea freight, air freight, warehousing, customs brokerage, and import and export services. 

The Difference Between FCL and LCL Container Shipping

What is FCL Container Shipping?

FCL container shipping is a method of transporting goods, specifically designed for international trade. As its name suggests, it involves shipping an entire container filled with cargo. 

A full container is considered the most efficient and cost-effective way of shipping large volumes of goods over long distances. In FCL shipping, the container is used exclusively by one shipper/consignee, ensuring that the goods inside are kept secure and free from contamination by other shipments.

The process of using FCL container shipping is hassle-free and straightforward. The consignee/shipper arranges a freight forwarder to collect the cargo from the origin and load it into a container. The container is then sealed, and a unique seal number is issued to track the shipment. After the container is loaded onto ocean freight or air freight transport, it is transported and delivered to the destination.

What is LCL Container Shipping?

LCL container shipping is the ideal method for shippers and consignees with smaller shipments that do not require the full space of a container. In LCL shipping, multiple shippers and consignees’ goods are consolidated into one container, meaning each consignee/shipper only pays for the space they use. LCL shipment is a popular choice for small businesses and individuals shipping personal effects, as they can avoid paying for unused container space.

LCL logistics involves a freight forwarder collecting cargo from various shippers/consignees and consolidating it into a shared container. This process entails more handling as the cargo needs to be prepared, loaded, unloaded, and repacked. 

FCL vs. LCL: Key Differences Overview

The primary difference between FCL and LCL container shipping lies in the container loads. This difference affects several aspects of the shipping process. Below is an outline of the other key differences.

Cost – Cost advantage for large shipments by providing lower per-unit costs

– Higher upfront costs due to booking a whole container 

– Costs are reduced as the shipment size increases.

– Cost savings when the cargo volume is smaller 

– Shippers only pay for the space they use within a container.

Handling Considered more secure because cargo is loaded into a dedicated container, which is sealed at the origin and remains sealed until it reaches its destination. Consolidation and deconsolidation processes involved result in the cargo being subjected to more handling compared to FCL shipments. 
Delivery times Generally faster transit times as there is minimal handling of cargo during transportation. Include multiple stops to consolidate and deconsolidate cargo, which can lead to longer transit times.

Ultimately, the choice between FCL and LCL container shipping depends on the specific needs and demands of your business or individual cargo requirements. 

LCL vs. FCL: Advantages and Disadvantages in Detail

Advantages of LCL Shipping

  • Cost-effective for smaller shipments

One of the key differences between LCL and FCL container shipping is the shipment size. LCL is ideal for smaller shipments, as it allows businesses to share the container space and split the ocean freight expenses with other shippers. This makes LCL a more cost-effective shipping method for small businesses and personal effects shipments.

  • Flexibility in scheduling 

Since LCL involves consolidating multiple shipments into a single container, it offers greater flexibility in scheduling. Businesses can send out their cargo without waiting to fill up an entire container, enabling better inventory management and supply chain finance.

Disadvantages of LCL Shipping

  • Slower transit times

Due to the consolidation and deconsolidation processes involved in LCL shipping, it typically has slightly slower transit times compared to FCL shipping. This is because additional time is needed to consolidate multiple LCL shipments into a full container and to deconsolidate them upon arrival at the destination.

  • Increased risk of damage

Shared containers in LCL shipping make handling and moving goods more complex. With multiple shipments in one container, the risk of damaging the cargo is generally higher compared to a single FCL shipment.

Advantages of FCL Container Shipping

  • Faster transit times

FCL shipments generally have faster transit times, as they do not require consolidation and deconsolidation processes. Once a full container is loaded with products, it can be transported directly to its destination without any trans-loading or re-handling.

  • Enhanced security

FCL shipments are typically regarded as a more secure shipping method, as the entire container is dedicated to a single shipper. This reduces the chances of damage or theft during transit, as the container remains sealed from origin to destination. The lower risk of cargo damage or loss makes FCL shipping ideal for international trade, especially when dealing with high-value or sensitive products.

  • Economical for larger shipments

For businesses shipping large quantities of products, FCL is often more economical than LCL. In FCL shipping, the cost per unit decreases as the size of the cargo increases, making it an advantageous option for larger shipments and trade finance global businesses.

Disadvantages of FCL Container Shipping

  • Higher upfront costs

FCL shipments can be more expensive than LCL shipping, especially for small businesses and personal effects shipments. In FCL, the entire container must be rented and paid for, regardless of whether it is filled completely or not.

  • Less flexibility in scheduling 

As opposed to LCL, FCL requires businesses to wait until an entire container is filled before it can be shipped. This may disrupt inventory management and create delays in the supply chain.

How do I choose between FCL and LCL?

To choose between FCL and LCL shipping, consider the following factors:

Factors to consider in choosing between FCL and LCL shipping

Volume and weight

Measure your cargo both by volume and by weight. As a rule of thumb, if your shipment is large enough to occupy more than half of a container, FCL shipping might be more cost-effective. If your cargo volume is too small for a full container, LCL shipping is the way to go.

Shipping costs

Assess your shipping budget and compare the costs of FCL and LCL shipping for your particular shipment. Make sure you consider additional costs, such as global trade finance, freight forwarding, and supply chain finance. 

Freight forwarding

FCL shipments generally have a lower freight forwarding cost because they require less handling and consolidation compared to LCL shipments. An LCL shipment usually arrives at the port, gets consolidated with other LCL shipments, and then gets loaded onto the ship. This additional handling adds complexity and increases the cost of LCL logistics.

Destination charges

LCL shipments may have higher destination charges due to the need for deconsolidation and distribution at the destination port. FCL shipments are not subject to these additional charges as they are dedicated to a single consignee.

You may also be able to streamline your international shipping through third-party services, such as warehousing and customs clearance, which would need to be included in your cost analysis and comparison. Smaller budgets may be better suited for LCL shipping, while FCL shipping can be advantageous for large-scale shipments.

Transit time

Analyse your delivery time requirements. Are you under strict deadlines to deliver your products? FCL shipments usually have shorter transit times compared to LCL shipments because there are no delays for consolidation and deconsolidation. However, if your shipping schedules are flexible, LCL shipping may be more economical.


FCL shipments provide greater security because your goods remain in the locked container from the point of origin to the point of destination. LCL shipments are less secure because your cargo shares space with other customers’ goods, increasing the risk of damage or loss.

At EES Shipping in Perth, WA, we are committed to providing our clients with the best possible solutions to all of their logistics needs. We also understand that every shipment has different requirements, which is why we offer tailor-made solutions catered to each individual client. Contact us today for more information. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is LCL shipping beneficial for small businesses?

LCL shipping is an excellent choice for small businesses that cannot fill an entire container. It offers the advantages of ocean freight, such as lower costs compared to air freight, without the need to fill a full container. LCL shipping allows small businesses to keep their inventory low and import goods according to demand. It reduces shipping costs while maintaining the benefits of container shipping, making it an affordable and flexible solution for shipping products globally.

How does FCL shipment affect supply chain finance?

FCL shipment can impact supply chain finance positively by reducing transportation costs and minimising risks associated with cargo handling. Full container loads provide better freight forwarding efficiency and lower costs per unit, enabling businesses to offer competitive pricing and improve profit margins. Additionally, the lower risk of damage or loss during transportation can reduce insurance premiums and minimise delays in the supply chain, contributing to smoother trade finance operations.