FCL or LCL: How to get the optimal sea freight solution


Depending on the type and volume of cargo you need transported, there will be advantages and disadvantages for your business depending on which sea freight solution you use. 

Blue Water offers a wide range of sea freight services through our own global network. Among our core services are FCL and LCL. We have a global network of offices and contact with all major shipping companies, so we can deliver to any port in the world.

Depending on the type and volume of cargo you need transported, there will be advantages and disadvantages for your business depending on which sea freight solution you use. In this blog post, we will take you through the FCL and LCL sea freight solutions to give you a better understanding of which solution that meets your business needs.

What is the difference between FCL and LCL?

What does FCL mean? FCL stands for Full Container Load. Full Container Load includes sea freight with cargo large enough to fill a 20' or 40' shipping container. FCL freight is usually loaded in one place and most often at the shipper's warehouse. FCL shipments are used for high-volume shipments.

What does LCL mean? LCL stands for Less than Container Load. LCL is used for smaller volumes of goods when the shipper does not have enough goods to fill an entire container. With LCL shipments, your goods will be packed in a container with goods from other companies, so the entire container capacity is being used. In this case, you will only pay for the part of the container that your goods occupy.

Advantages and disadvantages of FCL

Advantages of FCL? FCL shipments have a faster transit time than LCL shipments. This is caused by the fact that the container only holds goods from one company. This also offers advantages when loading the container with goods from the company, as this can be done directly from the company's own warehouse, which means you can also have a say in how the goods are loaded. Furthermore, when the ship arrives at the destination, you will have the goods available sooner. With FCL transport, you also achieve a high level of control as the container only holds the company's own goods, which will minimise the risk of damage.

Disadvantages of FCL? A disadvantage of using FCL shipments is that it is a more expensive solution. As the container only holds goods from one company, the company is also responsible for all shipping costs, which can make the solution more expensive. Another disadvantage is that during high season/peak periods, it can be more difficult to book a full container compared to LCL.

Advantages and disadvantages of LCL

Advantages of LCL? With LCL shipping, you only pay for the part of the container that your goods occupy, which means that the solution is cheaper than if you have to pay for an entire container on your own - as with FCL. On the other side, there are fewer costs related to the solution. It is also better if your business does not ship large quantities of goods at a time. In this case, you can use the container solution regardless of the amount of goods, while not having to wait for a full container to fill up. In addition, during high season/peak periods, it is easier to book an LCL shipment than to book an entire container.

Disadvantages of LCL? A disadvantage of LCL shipments is that the transit time is longer than FCL. This is because the container holds goods from different companies. Therefore, there is a risk that the other goods may have to be picked up or delivered at other ports. In addition, not knowing what type of goods the container holds can be a disadvantage when it comes to controlling the goods. Both factors can cause delays. With LCL shipments, you therefore have less control over the shipment.

Should I choose FCL or LCL?

The choice of sea freight solution is relatively simple considering that FCL and LCL are determined by the volume of the cargo. The size of the goods is the deciding factor in the choice. If your cargo cannot fill an entire container, your ideal solution is shipping with LCL - however, if you have large amounts of cargo and can fill the container yourself, FCL is the best solution. The decision must also be considered from a financial perspective. 

When should I choose FCL?

  • Faster shipping: The FCL container contains only your goods and therefore the shipping/transit time will be more effective.

  • Cost-effective: If you have enough goods to fill an entire container, FCL will be the most cost-effective/cheaper solution in the long run.

When should I choose LCL?

  • Reduced volumes of goods: When you have smaller volumes of goods, this shipping solution is optimal as the container capacity is utilised by multiple companies.

  • Freight costs are shared: As the container is filled with goods from different companies, the freight costs will be shared depending on how much the goods take up. It can therefore be cheaper than using FCL and not being able to fill the container.

Container specifications

The container size and price for shipping a container may vary by type of cargo. On this page you can find an overview of the different container types, including sizes and dimensions. Most containers can be used across modes of transport e.g., containers for shipping sea freight can also be used for transporting cargo by road.

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