If you are a small or medium business owner who ships product via ocean freight, you are probably familiar with the terms FCL (full container load) and LCL (less than a container load). Knowing what the terms stand for and what they mean is the easy part. Getting a hold on which option is best for your business gets a little bit more complicated. Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of both of these options, with the goal of helping you make the right choice for your shipments.

Cost

On a strictly per volume basis, FCL is going to be cheaper than LCL for larger volumes. When you ship via FCL, you are essentially renting, or paying a fee for an entire container. Typically containers are available in 20 And 40 CBM configurations. As a simple rule of thumb, if you have less than 20 cubic metres of goods going to one location, FCL is the best option. If you are a small business owner shipping on a frequent basis to a customer, you may find that your goods don’t come close to 20 CBMs. In that case, an LCL option should be considered.

Flexibility

In today’s supply chains, just in time strategies, with frequent and small shipments make the LCL option the right choice. If you are buying goods from a supplier and want to conserve cash flow, smaller, more frequent shipments via LCL can reduce the amount of inventory you need to carry as well as keeping your investment in inventory at a manageable level.

Shipping Damage

One big advantage of the FCL option is that your goods are only handled twice. Once when they are loaded into the container and again when they are unloaded. Conversely, when LCL is the shipping method the goods will be picked up at the shipper, loaded onto and off of a truck at a warehouse and moved again when they are loaded into a shared container.

If you are receiving or shipping goods that might be easily damaged, the FCL option will ensure that a minimum of handling damage can occur.

Speed

As a general rule, goods shipped via FCL will arrive a few days sooner than a similar shipment going LCL. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, the shipper is going to need more time to fill the part of the LCL container that your goods are on. Shippers consolidate multiple customers who have goods going to the same place in the same general time. 

Second, it just takes more time to process the multiple shipping documents such as bills of lading and inventory documentation when there are multiple shipments in the same container. At some point in your calculation, you may even find that the additional cost of air freight for smaller packages is worth the extra charges.

If you are still not sure which is the best option for you, the professional staff at Eagles Air & Sea Ltd., can listen to your requirements and help you make the best decision for your specific situation.