When shipping via ocean freight, importers have the option to arrange a Full Container Load (FCL) or share a container via Less than a Container Load (LCL). The following factors help determine which method works best.
Cost – The following are factored into determining the total cost:
- Total weight and dimensions. How much fits in a container?
- Container loading and unloading station fees
Transit Time – Shipping via FCL can save you several days of transit time due to:
- LCL requires goods to be delivered to a 3rd party warehouse to load and unload. This adds a minimum of 3 additional days at the origin AND destination. IE. Shipping LCL will be at least 6 days longer to ship vs. FCL.
- LCL schedules typically only have one or two departures per week. FCL schedules have departures throughout the week.
- LCL shipments are more susceptible to Customs examinations, most notably X-rays. For example, US Customs often automatically flags a container for X-ray if the importer failed to file their 10+2 ISF in a timely manner. This impacts the entire container and the release by a minimum of 2 days.
Safety of Goods – Containers for FCL shipments are loaded by the supplier. LCL shipments require a 3rd party warehouse to load and unload the goods. Unfortunately, a good percentage of LCL shipments suffer damage to shipping cartons. However, if the supplier uses appropriate protection such heavy duty packaging, protectors, labels, and/or palletizing, it can greatly reduce or eliminate damage.
Cost typically is the biggest determining factor when choosing between FCL and LCL. However, transit time and the safety of goods certainly adds some additional value to shipping FCL.
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