FCL & LCL (Consolidation)

It is important to use the correct shipping method in order to maximize profitability for your business.

What are the differences between FCL and LCL?

FCL refers to a single container booked by a shipper to transport their cargo (exclusively). This service is commonly used by shippers who have enough cargo to fill the whole container making it cost effective to book an FCL shipment.

LCL refers to cargoes owned by different shippers, grouped in a single container by the forwarding agent, allowing transportation of smaller volumes of cargo without paying for a full container; this is more cost effective for smaller shipments which cannot utilize a full container.

Should I ship my freight with FCL (full container load) or LCL (less than container load)? We lay out the different variables to consider in this post to help you make your decision.

Disadvantages of Full Container Load Shipping:

Not cost effective unless shipping more than 15 cubic meters (in a 20ft GP container)

Disadvantages of Less than Container Load Shipping:

  • More expensive per cubic meter when compared to FCL
  • Possible delays waiting for other consignments being grouped in container
  • Possible delays at customs due to other company cargo (incorrect documentation etcs)
  • Cargo can be damaged in transit if other consignments not correctly packaged or packed into the container

Advantages of Full Container Load Shipping:

  • More cost effective when transporting over 15 cubic meters (approximate half cubic space of 20ft GP container)
  • More cost effective than air freight (although longer transit time)
  • Generally faster transit (compared to LCL) due to less general handling and unforeseen delays
  • High security and fewer risks of damage to the cargo because container is handled less

Advantages of Less than Container Load Shipping:

  • Most cost effective for consignments not suitable for FCL
  • More cost effective than air freight (although longer transit time)
  • Best transportation method for small volume shipments
  • Smaller orders reduce inventory investment and allow shippers more flexibility


There are a number of advantages / disadvantages for both LCL and FCL container shipping. If you are a small to medium sized company and do not have enough inventory to fill a standard container then it is recommended that LCL will be the most cost effective method of shipping. If you are a large company with enough stock to fill a full container then FCL transportation is the way to go.

When shipping cargo using FCL transportation you can improve the economies of scale and increase profits by reviewing your supply chain strategy to maximize on full container load advantages. This could involve reducing the total weekly or monthly container shipments you receive in order to completely fill a container e.g. if you are shipping 14 cubic meters every month (LCL shipment), why not wait an extra month and transport 28 cubic meters in one shipment. You could also consider increasing container size from a 20ft to a 40ft to further improve cost effectiveness.

We have dedicated LCL and FCL container shipping teams to help you transport cargo around the world, no matter how much you need transporting or where it is being loaded / discharged. Our team can provide advice on the best container transportation method for your needs and help with every aspect on transportation including warehousing, cargo consolidation, road transport to port, loading / unloading, customs clearance and documentation.

Speak to our experts today and start processing your shipment with risk – free and reliable FCL & LCL services with AI Logistics!