What are FCL and LCL? | LOTUS Containers

FCL vs LCL Shipment

Shipping containers, celebrating their 63rd birthday this year, have added tremendous value to ongoing international trade activities across the world. Invented by Malcolm Mclean around half a decade ago, they revolutionized the entire world trade by giving shippers the ability to transfer cargo by storing them into shipping containers. They are extensively used to carry products from the point of origin to the point of the final destination. The two most common terms used in the shipping lines for freight movement are LCL and FCL. FCL means Full Container Loads and LCL means less than a Container Load often leads to a lot of confusion about what they are all about.

When given a choice between FCL vs LCL shipping, it is an important decision for any shipper to make as to which mode of shipping is more viable for the cargo they need to transfer.

Given below is a thorough description of FCL and LCL for a better understanding.

What are FCL and LCL?

What is Full Container Load?

The term FCL is used when the cargo container is exclusively loaded with a single consignee’s goods and is not shared with other shippers, and the cost is borne by a single vendor only. For example, a shipper has to transport his goods to the port of Miami, he will hire a 40’ dry van shipping container and load his goods in them. Even though the container is left with some space, the shippers do not agree to share the remaining space with other vendors. The shipping container will be further locked and loaded on the deck by the carrier company for the transition. This is when shipping is called FCL.

Advantages of using FCL shipment

  • The per-unit freight cost for LCL is higher than FCL: This is because carriers prefer a full container as it is easier for them than managing small bundles in a single box. In addition to this, the vendor is obliged to pay an importing fee regardless of the size of your cargo or choice of the cargo containers.
  • The delivery through the FCL container is done fast: As FCL is owned by a single party, it does not need to be opened at various ports all over the world for other vendors. The cargo is transported to the party in one go without any delay.
  • One can order the shipping container at the desired port or location to load goods before the transition and unload goods after delivery.

 What is Less Container Load?

The term LCL expands as Less than a Container Load is used when more than one vendors share the same shipping container to load their goods. In an LCL, the overall cost is bifurcated and shared amongst every consignee loading their cargoes in the container. Everyone pays according to the space, size; weight, and types of their cargo. Shippers usually prefer LCL when they have a cargo of very small size of shipment to be delivered, usually less than 20 cubic meters. It is also commonly referred to as groupage shipping or consolidated shipping.

When to choose LCL shipment?

LCL shipping is preferable when the size of the cargo is extremely small. LCL allows the shipper to transport cargo in small quantities that further helps them to cut their warehousing costs. This is because the less stock they keep in the warehouse, the less they are liable to pay.


In a nutshell, it can be concluded that both LCL and FCL shipping have their pros and cons. But moving your freight via LCL is a bit costly and more time-consuming. Transporting via FCL is always the better option until and unless your freight to be delivered is not less in quantity or weight.

Here at LOTUS Containers, we provide a large fleet of shipping containers to choose from like dry van, pallet wide, high cube, or standard shipping containers, and many more depending on your shipping requirements.


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