Are you confused about choosing among different shipment methods such as FCL VS LCL?

Have you chosen sea-freight as a shipment method for delivering your goods from China to your region?

When delivering across the ocean or through sea-freight, you usually get two options; one is shipment through FCL and the other is shipment through LCL.

In simple terms, when the shipping container contains only your goods it’s FCL shipment and when you share a container i.e. one container is filled with different orders of different buyers then it is an LCL shipment. Both have their benefits depending upon your situation.

In this blog, there is a complete guide explaining both the shipment methods to you, delivering a detailed difference among them, telling about pros and cons, and helping you to choose one depending upon your situation.

Table of Content

Chapter 1: FCL VS LCL: An Overview to different shipping methods

Chapter 2: FCL vs LCL; Key differences between the different shipping methods

Chapter 3: FCL vs LCL; Pros and Cons

Chapter 4: Key Points to Know about FCL and LCL Shipments

Chapter 5: FCL vs LCL Shipment; Which one to Choose?

Chapter 6: Frequently Asked Questions About FCL and LCL

Chapter 1: FCL VS LCL: An Overview to different shipping methods

There are two shipping methods that are used when you chose to deliver your goods via ocean freight. One is FCL and the other is LCL.

Confused between the two? Well, here is a detailed explanation of each method that will help you decide which one is the right fit for you.

1. What is FCL?

What is FCL

FCL is the abbreviation of “Full Container Load”. FCL shipment method means you book a single container exclusively for the delivery of your goods.

Since you are not sharing the container with any other shipper, you have to pay for the entire container.

FCL is the right shipment method for you in case your cargo is 15 CBM (cubic meter) or more so that it can completely acquire the space of a 20 or 40-foot container.

But that doesn’t matter because many shippers opt for the FCL shipment method when their cargo is in the quantity which is near enough to fill the entire container.

2. What is LCL?

LCL is the abbreviation of “Less than Container Load”. LCL shipment method means you book a part of the container for the delivery of your good across the ocean.

That means you share the container with other shippers whose goods are in the same container as yours. By using the LCL method for shipment, you are bound to pay only for the space that your cargo utilizes.

What is LCL

LCL is the right shipment option when your cargo is less than 10 CBM and it cannot fill an entire container. This option is feasible even when you are shipping very small volumes such as 100 kg as you are only paying for the space occupied.

3. What is FCL and LCL in Shipping terms?

In shipment terms, FCL means when the shipper must book one whole container for cargo shipment.

In FCL shipment, as all the cargo belongs to one company there is no need to stop at various ports for unpacking and unloading which prevents unnecessary delays.

FCL shipment method is smooth, secure, and fast. This is a suitable option for cargo that needs to be delivered on short notice. The cargo which is fragile and sensitive is shipped via FCL shipment.

What is FCL and LCL in Shipping terms

While LCL in the shipping terms means a shipment where cargos of different companies are consolidated together. LCL shipment is chosen when the cargo is in a small volume and doesn’t fill the entire container.

LCL method takes a longer time as each cargo is unloaded, unpacked, and delivered to its respective destination port. It is suitable for cargo that is not time-sensitive. Less fragile items are shipped via the LCL shipment method.

4. What are the documents required for the shipping methods; LCL and FCL?

There is plenty of documentation involved in both FCL and LCL shipment methods. Make sure to prepare the following documents for the seamless shipment of your cargo. Missing any one document will cause delays in your shipment.

flow of lcl

  • Bill of lading
  • Commercial invoice/ Packing list
  • Certificate of origin
  • Inspection certificate
  • Insurance
  • Fumigation certificate
  • Bill of export/shipping bill
  • Bill of entry

5. Why is it important for an importer to understand these shipping terms?

Documentation is a crucial part of any shipment method without which shipment is impossible. Containers are not allowed to enter or leave any country unless they are accompanied by the required documents.

Both importers and exporters need to prepare their respective documents for unproblematic custom checks at ports.

Since documentation is mandatory, every importer must have an understanding of the related terms so that he can fulfill the requirements and collect the cargo without any hassle.

Chapter 2: FCL vs LCL; Key differences between the different shipping methods

FCL and LCL are two different shipment methods having many differences between them. The major difference is that in FCL entire container belongs to your goods while in LCL your goods are merged with others’ goods within one container.

There are some other differences as well that you should know.

1. The difference in Shipment volume

The ideal shipment volume for both FCL and LCL is different. Shipment volume means the volume that transported goods will occupy in the container.

The units used for the measurement of shipment volume are cubic meter or cubic feet. It is an important factor that needs to be considered while deciding between two shipment methods.

Difference in Shipment volume

For FCL shipment, the ideal shipment volume is 15 CBM or more. While for LCL shipment, the ideal shipment volume is in the range of 1 to 10 CBM.

When your shipment volume is even lesser than 1 CBM, it is recommended to choose air freight as it will be more feasible for you.

2. The difference in Security of Cargo

Every shipper including you will want to reach your cargo safe and sound at its destination. But some cargo items do not require a high level of security.

These are the items that are not fragile or much sensitive to movements.

If your cargo consists of such less sensitive items then go for LCL, because container space is shared and items are not very secure.

However, if you are shipping highly sensitive items, FCL is the right method as the entire container belongs to you, so it offers better handling and prevents the exposure of other items.

3. Urgent Shipment; FCL vs LCL

The time of shipment is another important difference that determines which shipping method to be selected. If the shipment is urgent FCL is the right option to choose because the shipment is swift without any delays and in-route stops.

There is no time wasted on loading and unloading at different transshipment ports. The shipment is through a direct route from the loading port to the destination port.

If the shipment is not urgent and you have some time until the due date, LCL is the right method for you.

As LCL ships your cargo in a shared container, there are often delays in the process because of the repeated process of loading and unloading at different transshipment ports. Sometimes custom security checks also cause additional delays in the shipment of LCL containers.

4. Which is faster? FCL vs LCL


FCL is a faster shipping method than LCL. This is because it avoids the additional delays because of the consolidation procedures of goods at various transshipment ports.

On the other hand, the LCL method takes more time because of the delays due to the sorting, loading, unloading, packing of goods at each port.

5. Which is Cheaper? FCL vs LCL

The cost depends on what kinds of goods you are shipping. In a general sense, FCL costs more as you have to pay the price of the entire container even if your goods don’t fill it.

On the other hand, LCL costs less as you only pay according to the shipment volume of goods. However, in some cases, LCL costs more than FCL. This happens when your cargo is fragile and cannot be stacked over another.

FCL costs

This arrangement takes a lot of space and you are left with no option but to pay according to the space occupied.

6. The difference in delivery appointments

LCL shipment is a more suitable choice when delivery appointments are concerned. In the case of FCL, the situation is a bit difficult to manage.

That is because during FCL shipment there is a specific time limit during which it is a must for you to receive the container, unload it, and deliver it back.

The time limit is usually 8 days. The situation gets problematic when you are unable to meet the deadline because extra time will cost you money.

While in LCL shipment, you have ample time to receive the container, unload it, and return it before the ‘free time. LCL offers you 5 days at the port and 6 to 7 days at the warehouse. This helps you avoid paying an extra fee.

7. Amazon Deliveries; FCL vs LCL

LCL shipments are more smooth and problem-free as compared to FCL when it comes to amazon deliveries. LCL shipments are received directly at Amazon and are easy to handle because of the prior arrangements and planning.

While the FCL shipment can be a bit burdensome when the Amazon FBA is in question. This is because the shipped goods must meet the delivery criteria of Amazon to be accepted at the company.

Amazon Deliveries FCL vs LCL

Amazon rejects a container if it contains loose cartons that are not properly palletized and wrapped. This protocol costs an extra sum of money to the shippers in case the delivery appointment gets rejected by Amazon FBA.

8. The difference in custom clearance and custom exchange

The custom clearance method for both LCL and FCL is similar. However, the custom examination might differ between the two.

The custom exam part is a bit challenging for LCL shipments because there are goods of more than one consignee in one container so there is a higher possibility of any consignment getting flagged by customs.

If that happens, the entire container is blocked and is checked thoroughly. The cost of the custom checking process is shared among all the consignees no matter whose cargo was the reason for the delay.

While the chances of a custom exam of an FCL shipment are low because custom inspection happens randomly. And in the case of inspection, the cost is borne by the sole shipper.

Chapter 3: FCL vs LCL; Pros and Cons

When comparing two methods of shipment, there are a few pros and cons of each method that you should keep in mind so that you can choose the best suitable option for your cargo shipment.

1. Pros of FCL Shipment

Here is why you need to choose FCL as your shipment method:

  • FCL shipment is swift and your goods get delivered in no time because you are the only consignee.
  • FCL passes custom inspection pretty smoothly as the goods belong to one shipper and the chances of getting flagged are almost non-existent.
  • The cost of FCL is cheaper when considered per unit because the price of container shipment is fixed irrespective of the volume of your goods.
  • FCL method delivers your good in a damaged-free state because there are no transshipment stops and people touch the goods only when they are loaded and unloaded.
  • FCL is a suitable method to deliver sensitive, heavy, and fragile goods as it provides a high level of security and damage-free shipment.

2. Potential Cons of FCL Shipment

Here is why you need to think carefully before choosing the FCL shipment method.

  • FCL shipment is often more expensive than LCL as you have to pay for the full container price.
  • FCL method doesn’t serve well to the shippers who have a small volume of goods to ship.
  • FCL shipment needs manual labor or a forklift for unloading as containers are usually fixed and cannot be lowered to the ground.

-Pros of LCL Shipment

Here are the reasons why should consider LCL as your shipment method.

  • LCL shipping is cheaper than FCL when your goods’ volume is less than that of a container. Hence you only need to pay for the space occupied by your goods.
  • LCL shipment method provides you with high flexibility and convenience.
  • It is the right method to ship small volumes and to maintain the cash flow.
  • It is a suitable option for the delivery of less sensitive and less fragile items.

-Potential Cons of LCL Shipment

Here is why you should think again before considering LCL shipment methods.

pros and cons lcl fcl

  • LCL shipment takes longer to arrive hence it is not suitable for urgent shipments.
  • Your goods are prone to damage because of continuous consolidation, loading, and unloading of the goods.
  • Custom inspections are strict and time-consuming in the case of LCL shipments because goods belong to multiple suppliers.
  • There can be unnecessary delays in case any shipment gets flagged at customs.

Chapter 4: Key Points to Know about FCL and LCL Shipments

1. Key points to Know about FCL

In the FCL shipment, the entire space of the container belongs to you and you are not bound to share space with any shipper. When you opt for FCL shipment, you have to choose between the following FCL services.

  • Port to Port Shipment

In the port-to-port shipment service, you get to ship your cargo from the port of onboarding to the port of final delivery. Hence you only pay the ocean freight charges. You will be responsible for the transportation of goods to and from the port.

  • Door to Door Shipment

In the door-to-door shipment service, your cargo is picked from your location and delivered to the final destination. This method offers a door-to-door shipment service. Hence you pay the fee for the entire transportation and ocean freight as well.

  • Door to Port Shipment

In the door to port shipment service, your cargo is picked from the location of its stuffing and then delivered to the last port. In this service, you will arrange the transportation of containers from the port by yourself.

  • Port to Door Shipment

This service offers to ship the cargo from the port to the location of the consignee. If you avail of this service, you will have to arrange the transportation of the container to the port.

2. Key points to Know about LCL

  • Preferred mode of Shipment when the volume of cargo is low

LCL should be your go-to shipping method when the volume of your cargo isn’t enough to fulfill an entire container. If your cargo volume is between 2 to 13 cubic meters, LCL is right for you as it will be cost-effective.

Your cargo will share space with cargos belonging to other businesses. You can choose to transport cargo to the port or hire a freight forwarder to do the job for you.

  • Consolidation and deconsolidation

Consolidation is combining various shipments into one container. Multiple consignments are optimized to fit in the shipment container by the planning team.

Consolidation is done by either freight forwarder, carrier, a consolidator of the warehouse, or the logistics provider. After consolidation, the shipping line is responsible for the cargo.

Deconsolidation is the breakdown of the shipment into multiple shipments so they can be delivered to their respective destinations.

Usually, shipment is deconsolidated at the warehouse where each shipper can receive their cargo depending upon the service they opted for.

Chapter 5: FCL vs LCL Shipment; Which one to Choose?

Are you confused between the two shipping methods and don’t know what to choose? Here is a detailed comparison between FCL and LCL shipment methods that will help you in your decision-making.

                     – LCL: Less than Container Load FCL: Full Container Load
Shipment Weight

When your shipment is small with less than 1 CBM, you should choose LCL shipment rather than air freight.

This is because air freight charges according to the volumetric weight and the fare would be quite high.

When choosing FCL, it is important to keep the size of the container in mind as different countries have different rules for the maximum weight limit.

For the US, the maximum weight per container is around 17 to 20 tons.

Shipment Volume The minimum shipment volume for LCL shipment is 1 CBM. LCL is the ideal option for shipment between 1 to 15 CBM.

There is no minimum volume for FCL, but still, make sure you get to fit the cargo of more than 15CBM.

The container sizes for FCL range between 20 to 76 CBM.

Freight Charges

The cost for LCL is economical in case of load under 15 CBM.

And if your shipment is +/- 2 CBM of 15 CBM, it’s better to consider FCL.

FCL is a better option in terms of cost when the load exceeds 15 CBM.

This is because the charges of the FCL container are fixed and don’t depend on the load.

Local Charges LCL shipment load is charged according to per CBM rate. And these rates include the local charges of loading and delivery ports. The FCL local shipment charges are fixed and are based on per container charges.

LCL takes a longer time to ship the cargo as there are additional procedures of consolidation and deconsolidation involved.

And in case any one of the shipment gets flagged by custom, the whole container is stopped for checking.

FCL takes much less time to ship the goods because the goods belong to one shipper

The cargo is loaded from the port and unloaded once at the final destination.


You can track the LCL shipment container by using the information provided by the Bill of Lading.

However, the tracking result is not very accurate because of multiple handlers

FCL is tracked in the same way as LCL.

However, the FCL track results are more accurate because the container belongs to one shipper.

Security and Damages LCL shipment is more prone to security risks and damages because of multiple stops in between. FCL shipment is far more secure and damage-free because there is one single route without stopping in between.
Split shipment Split shipment is easier in the case of LCL because cargo is unloaded at the warehouse to sort shipments of various consignees. Split shipment under FCL will cost you extra charges because FCL cargo isn’t unloaded in the warehouse usually.
Amazon FBA

In LCL shipment, an amazon FBA appointment is booked by the carrier.

The load is palletized according to the criteria of Amazon at the warehouse after unloading the cargo.

Amazon FBA appointment for FCL delivery is also made by the carrier.

The cargo is palletized before loading at the port of origin.

Delivery appointments Delivery appointments to book warehouses for LCL shipments are seamless because of less volume of the load. FCL delivery appointments are troublesome and take a longer time to approve because of a large volume of cargo.
Container booking LCL shipment booking during the holiday season is not very difficult because the consolidators try their best to make space in the container and avoid sending empty containers. On the other hand, FCL shipment booking during the holiday season is difficult because of the less availability of full containers.
Custom exam and clearance

LCL and FCL custom exams and custom clearance procedures are quite similar.

LCL shipment faces an additional challenge because of cargo belonging to multiple consignees.

This increases the chances of custom examination of an LCL shipment.

FCL shipment usually has a smooth custom exam and custom clearance as cargo belongs to one consignee.

But there is always a possibility of random custom examination.

1. Choose the Shipment method by keeping notice on your consignment size

The major factor to consider in the shipment method is the consignment size which is measured in cubic meters (CBM).

It is generally recommended to choose LCL for a cargo of 1 to 12/13 CBM, and beyond 15 CBM it is recommended to go for the FCL shipment method.

2. Look out for the consignment weight to be shipped

Another factor to keep in consideration is the weight of consignment measured in Kgs. When cargo is below 100 kg go for air freight, and when cargo weighs more than 100 kg, ocean shipment is the most suitable option.

3. Take note of your budget before choosing a shipment method

The most factor is the budget. Keep in mind your budget cost before deciding on any one method. Air freight is expensive and is feasible only when the cargo volume is small.

Among sea shipments, the prices vary because of different factors. During peak seasons and right before the China holidays, FCL prices soar because of the increased demand.

Chapter 6: Frequently Asked Questions About FCL and LCL


1. How do decide which shipping method to Choose between FCL and LCL?

The most factor is the budget. Keep in mind your budget cost before deciding on any one method. Air freight is expensive and is feasible only when the cargo volume is small.

Among sea shipments, the prices vary because of different factors. During peak seasons and right before the China holidays, FCL prices soar because of the increased demand.

2. What are the benefits of LCL Shipment?

LCL shipment is economical and budget-friendly. Moreover, this delivery method is more flexible because delivery appointments are easy to make. It is a suitable option for small businesses that can’t afford to book FCL shipments.

3. What are the benefits of FCL Shipment?

FCL shipment offers quick, safe, and secure shipment of the cargo. It is suitable for cargo that is fragile, heavy, cannot be stacked over one another, and is awkwardly shaped. FCL is the best way to deliver goods that are needed urgently by businesses.

4. What is the procedure for FCL Shipment?

FCL stands for “Full Container Load”. It is the ocean shipment method in which shippers book an entire container for the shipment of their cargo.

In FCL, the container has goods of only one consignee who pays the fee of the entire container. FCL opts when the cargo is loaded more than 15 CBM.

In FCL, the cargo is loaded at the port and is delivered straight to the destination port without making pit stops at transshipment ports.

Since the delivery is direct, there is less security risk and fewer chances of damage to the cargo. FCL shipment can also be easily tracked by using the information provided by Lading Bill. Tracking information can also be sought from the freight provider.

5. What is the procedure for LCL Shipment?

LCL stands for “less-than-container-load”. In LCL shipment, the cargo is shipped via container which is shared by multiple consignees.

The shipping charges are according to the size of the consignment; hence this shipment method is economical for small-size cargos.

LCL shipment is opted when the cargo volume is less than a container (less than 15 CBM). LCL shipment takes a longer time as cargo of different businesses are packed, consolidated, and then unconsolidated at their respective delivery ports.

This causes extra delays and also increases the chances of product damage because of increased exposure to the outer environment.


You have decided to ship cargo via ocean freight but now you are confused between FCL and LCL shipment methods. You must be wondering which one is better? Or what should I choose?

To be honest there is no hard and fast rule that one shipment method is better than the other. It totally depends on your requirements and business needs that which one suits you better.

FCL and LCL are both efficient shipment methods on their own terms.

Whenever deciding between two you need to consider multiple factors that directly and indirectly determine the efficiency of each shipment method including shipment charges, shipment time, load volume, size, weight, and security concerns.

Make sure you thoroughly analyze all your requirements and then decide on any one method. You can also utilize information from this detailed blog to understand both shipment methods in a better way.