03 Jan 2021. By Fretigo
FCL vs LCL
Depending on the volume of goods you want to ship, you may not need to pay for the use of a whole container. Shipping companies have devised a system for people with smaller amounts of cargo where several customers can share the space of a single container. This is called a ‘Less Than Container Load’ (LCL) or a part-load shipment.
Typically, people who are moving the contents of a one-bedroom flat can opt for LCL, but volumes greater than that will usually require a whole container. This is called a ‘Full Container Load’ (FCL) or sole-use shipment. It’s a bit like the difference between a private taxi and a bus.
Why choose Full Container Load?
It’s better value. In terms of cost per cubic metre, you get more bang for your buck with an FCL. The shipping company will charge you a flat rate for the use of the container rather than making you pay for the specific volume of your goods.
It’s faster. When you’re sharing a container with other people’s cargo, there’s more waiting involved. Belongings have to be loaded and unloaded at each port and then placed on separate trucks. However, an FCL shipment doesn’t need to be opened until it’s at your new house. The extra time required by LCL can vary, ranging from 4-5 days to a couple of weeks. It all depends on where you’re going and the company you’re shipping with.
Your goods are safer. With all the extra handling, LCL comes with an increased risk. The loading and unloading that happens at each port means that LCL shipments are moved around more often than FCL shipments. Naturally, this puts your belongings at greater risk of being damaged. FCL is much more advisable if you have fragile goods to bring with you.
You can ship a car. If you’re sharing the use of a container with other people, transporting a car is too risky. Cars are very safely secured in shipping containers but they are big and heavy things, meaning there is always the potential for damaging other people’s cargo. FCL is the solution here.
Why choose Less Than Container Load?
It’s the cheapest way to ship small volumes. If you don’t actually have that much stuff to bring with you, it would be silly to hire a whole container. Everything will just rattle around once it starts moving.
LCL is the most cost-effective method for smaller moves and it’s quite common that someone will have only a couple of boxes to bring. Students who are travelling abroad just for a year or so regularly opt for LCL. However, there is a point where you should switch from LCL to FCL, even if you don’t have enough to fill a container. Shipping companies advise that any shipment over 15 cbm should be sent by FCL, as this is actually more economical.