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How to Choose Between LCL and FCL?

When shipping overseas, you have a choice between shipping a full container load (FCL) or less than container load (LCL). Choosing between the two sometimes may not be as clear-cut as one may assume.  In this blog, we will discuss the difference between the two, pros and cons, and how to choose the best method for your load. 

Of course, the best method always depends on the size and volume of the load.  LCL is a method of shipping where multiple shipments are put into one shared container so businesses shipping in smaller volumes can opt for this instead of renting an entire container.  It can, in most cases, be the cheaper shipping option.

FCL is renting out an entire container and letting your products have exclusive rights to it.  The smallest container being 20ft which can carry up to 25-28 cbm or 8 large pallets/16 small pallets.  It is usually when the load is around this size that most people have a hard time deciding whether to ship LCL or FCL. 

Pros and Cons:

LCL is more expensive per cbm but it doesn’t mean it won’t be cheaper when appropriate.  Only when your load is close to an FCL capacity (25 cbm) that you may decide that it’d be easier to ship in FCL even if you don’t use the entire container.  With FCL, you need to ship a certain volume, so if the volume is close to being viable, shipping FCL may be cheaper than LCL.  LCL shipping is more flexible though, so it’s a great method for start-up companies or small businesses.

With FCL, there is a lot less handling.  FCL shipments are loaded into a container by your supplier where it remains sealed until it reaches its destination (unless it gets stopped by customs.)  This means very minimal opportunities for damage whilst in transit.  This makes this method optimal for fragile loads.  LCL, on the other hand, are handled more frequently.  The load gets put on a vehicle, then unloaded to a warehouse, where it is then sorted and put into a shared container.  Then when they reach their destination, they are unloaded, sorted onto a truck, before making its final trek to you.  Naturally, this makes LCL slower than FCL.

How do I choose?

In the end, the answer completely depends on the size of your shipment, and how flexible you are with your load.  If your volume is less than 20 cbm, it may be advantageous to just go with the LCL method.  Unless it has special delivery requirements or fragile—in which case, FCL would be the method for you.

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