Understanding Full Container Load (FCL) And Less Container Load (LCL)


Today, we shall be discussing something very important that needs urgent attention; there is no way you won’t need this information as an exporter except you have no future in exportation. Irrespective of your level in exportation; you need to understand this subject matter clearly.

Maybe, because this method is the cheapest way to transport large number of goods; it is call Ocean Freight! Today, we shall be discussing FCL and LCL in detail; by the end of this piece you should be able to know the different between the common available containers used in exportation.


What Is FCL  (Full Container Load)?

If an exporter has goods to accommodate in one full container load, he books an FCL  (Full Container Load) to stuff/load his goods/cargo. Full Container Load (FCL), as the name implies, is the standard form of shipping freight for those who have a large amount of goods to send abroad.

The FCL definition seems to imply that you have to fill the container totally, but in fact, this is not a must. However, whether you FULL the container or not this is still the cheapest method.


What Is LCL (Less Container Load)?

Under the LCL cargo, where in a shipper does not have enough goods to accommodate in one full container, he books cargo with a consolidator to console his goods along with goods of other shippers. In other words; this is the case where you get few goods to send through the container and its packed with other people goods in other to FULL the container then deliver each shipment to final destination by separating each shipment at final destination. This type of shipment is called LCL (Less Container Load).

Container Sizes

Full container load is one of the option  in the Ocean Freight industry. The containers are made of weathering steel and also they are coming in different size and type. The containers can be loaded, unloaded and transported on the wheel or flatbed. They are the most economical way to move the cargo safely all over the world.



The most popular container sizes are:

20 foot: 20’ long x 8’ wide x 8 ½’ high external (c. 6.1m x 2.4m x 2.6m)
40 foot: 40’ long x 8’ wide x 8 ½’ high external (c. 12.2m x 2.4m x 2.6m)

Increasingly used by bulk shippers is the Hi-Cube 40 foot, which has a 9 ½’ height. There are also refrigerated containers, which can be broader at 2.6m width.

Other specialist types that you may encounter include Flat Rack, Open Top, and ‘heavy tested’ 20’ containers that are suitable for heavy machinery. The maximum payload mass for a 20’ container is approx. 22 tonnes: and for 40’, approx. 27 tonnes.

The FCL Process

As with most shipping, you have options. These can be summarized as –

Door to Door
Door to Port
Port to Door
Port to Port

The choice will depend on cost, your level of preparedness for loading the shipment, and the arrangements you have with your consignee at the other end.

The forwarder will take care of paperwork for you as required by the type of service chosen: including the Bill of Lading (BoL), advice to the receiving port, and customs clearance


Container Stuffing/Loading Options

You can request for an empty container dropped off at your premises. However, it is important to know that if you are going  by this method you must be ready to load the container immediately to avoid extra charges. You will be responsible for the condition of the packing so ensure that it is well done.

For overseas shipments you may require special ‘export packing’, often carried out by a specialist firm. The forwarder will arrange collection from them and transport to the shipper at the port.

After proper packaging and loading; the container is sealed until it reaches its destination. There is no-one else to blame if you do not carry out the container packing to the required standards.

Loading Time and Renting Options for FCL

If you opt for a Live Load, the container is brought to you and you have 2 or 3 hours to load and secure the consignment before an hourly surcharge kicks in. With this method the driver of the container will stand around while you load the container after which the container is sealed and drove off.

Less stressful is the Drop and Pack service where the container is left with you for an arranged time of 1 day to a week. It is a good option for people moving house abroad. It does cost more, though.

2 thoughts on “Understanding Full Container Load (FCL) And Less Container Load (LCL)”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sorry, contents on this blog are copyright protected!