LCL vs. FCL: Choosing the Right Shipping Option for Your Cargo

LCL vs. FCL: Choosing the Right Shipping Option for Your Cargo

You have the option of shipping your items FCL or LCL if you’re importing or exporting goods via sea-freight shipping. What do these choices actually represent, and which is the best for you?

Why are FCL and LCL used?

The two primary techniques for shipping containers are FCL and LCL. LCL stands for “less than container load” and FCL for “full container load.” Other names for LCL include “groupage” and “consolidation.”

As suggested by these names:

FCL denotes that only your items are loaded into the container.

Your cargo will be packed into the container along with the goods of other importers or exporters if it is less than a full container load (LCL).

How big is a shipping container?

The quantity of room required for shipping your goods is referred to by the terms FCL and LCL. You’ll also want to consider how much space a typical container provides when choosing between a full container and a less-than-full container.

The typical volumes for the most common container types are as follows:

The maximum weights for cargo in shipping containers are as follows:

What distinguishes FCL and LCL from one another?

If you have a complete container to yourself (FCL) or if you share a container with other importers (LCL), that is the primary distinction between FCL and LCL.

Beyond this fundamental distinction, there are further variations between the two approaches that you ought to take into account. This aids you in selecting the optimum way for your needs in terms of sea freight as an importer.

The main variations are as follows:


LCL is often used for shipments with a volume under 15 cubic meters (CBM), however it can be utilized for shipments as tiny as 1 CBM.

For shipments that are 15 CBM or higher in bulk, FCL is advised.


The maximum weight per CBM for LCL is 10 tons (or 10,000 kg). You will be charged more for the extra weight if your shipment weighs more than the permitted weight per CBM.

Your cargo must not weigh more than the maximum permitted amount for the type of container you are utilizing if it is an FCL. If so, you’ll need to transport the extra weight in a separate container.

Quickness of delivery

LCL transit times are generally 4 days longer than FCL’s overall transit times. This is due to the fact that consolidating and deconsolidating the cargo takes longer. Additionally, if one LCL container’s contents is delayed in customs, the entire container will also be delayed.

Faster than LCL is FCL. Your FCL container does not need to be deconsolidated once it arrives and is instantly ready for pickup, but you must pick it up and deliver it before detention and demurrage fines start to mount.

Freight expenses

Although LCL is less expensive than FCL, the cost may increase with greater loads. For LCL, local fees are frequently greater. Check the cost of FCL because it can be less expensive if your cargo is 2 CBM over or below the 15-CBM limit.

For cargoes of 15 CBM or more, FCL is frequently less expensive. Instead of paying a charge dependent on the amount and weight of your goods, FCL has a flat price per container.


Because you share a container with the cargo of other importers and exporters and because there is a lot more third-party handling (with consolidation and deconsolidation), there is a higher chance of theft and damage with LCL than FCL.

Your containers will go directly with a single carrier and won’t have to go through consolidation and deconsolidation, making FCL safer.


For LCL shipments, tracking is less accurate. Until the container reaches the port, you can track it using your freight bill. After that, tracking could be more challenging because a third party might be handling the container. You can still get updates from your forwarder.

Because only one consignee will handle your cargo, tracking with FCL is more transparent.


The same customs regulations apply to LCL and FCL shipments . An LCL shipment is just as likely as an FCL shipment to undergo a customs check.

There is a chance that, with LCL shipments, your cargo may inadvertently become stuck at customs. When the cargo of an additional importer or exporter in your shared container becomes stuck in customs for any reason, this occurs.

Peak-time accessibility

Prior to a significant Chinese holiday (such as Chinese New Year or Golden Week), it could be simpler to acquire room in an LCL cargo. This is due to Chinese shippers’ attempts to maximize container capacity by grouping more cargo together during times of high volume.

During busy times and Chinese holiday periods, it could be more difficult to book FCLs.

Delivery schedules

LCL makes it simpler to ship to your final destination if you require a delivery appointment. With LCL, you typically can schedule a delivery appointment before you start paying storage fees because you have a longer window of time (often 5 to 7 days) for moving your items from the deconsolidation center to their final location.

With FCL, you have to return the empty container to the port before you start paying costs, so you’re under additional pressure to get your container to its destination quickly. This makes scheduling a delivery appointment more difficult.

division of shipments

LCL makes it simpler to divide shipments across several final locations. The cargo might be divided up and transported to several locations during deconsolidation.

Splitting shipments using FCL is much more challenging.

What are FCL’s benefits and drawbacks?

Each has benefits and drawbacks, including FCL and LCL shipping in Dubai. Let’s begin with the benefits and drawbacks of FCL:


  • Speedier delivery
  • Improved traceability
  • More safety/lower risk
  • Ideal for substantial shipments


Not recommended unless your margins are large enough to cover the costs for modest shipments.

What are LCL’s benefits and drawbacks?


  • For smaller shipments, ideal enables importers to maintain less inventory, reducing inventory risk.
  • Splitting shipments to several destinations is simpler.


  • slower delivery (due to more time spent handling)
  • slightly increased chance of delays at customs
  • Not the best for heavy shipments
  • Decreased trackability
  • Increased chance of theft and damage

Which is faster: LCL or FCL ?

FCL is quicker than LCL just in terms of travel.

This is due to the fact that LCL requires more handling before, during, and after transportation due to the consolidation and deconsolidation of the cargo. At transfer hubs, LCL shipments are also reconsolidated (unloaded and reloaded) while en route.

LCL is frequently a better option, nevertheless, if you require more flexibility when shipping to your final destination.

In the case of LCL, your goods are removed from the container and palletized at a deconsolidation facility, where they are kept for a certain number of cost-free days (often 5 to 7) before being charged. 

This allows you the freedom from having to worry about timely container return so that you can schedule a delivery appointment and truck your palletized merchandise to its destination.

As opposed to FCL, which requires you to return the container empty to the port before fees start to accrue (often within 8 days), you must move quickly to deliver your full container to its destination.

Which should I pick: LCL or FCL?

It’s crucial to keep in mind that neither FCL or LCL is necessarily preferable to the other when thinking about these two concepts. The comparisons above demonstrate that numerous aspects must be taken into account.

While LCL is thought to be more adaptable and useful, FCL is often thought to be faster and more secure.

LCL is a good option for little importers. FCL may be more cost-effective for larger importers, but it could not provide the flexibility you require, especially if your company depends on Amazon FBA.

Be sure to consult your freight forwarder while organizing your shipments to learn the advantages and disadvantages of each choice.