In logistics, efficient transportation of goods is paramount. When it comes to shipping cargo internationally, businesses often face the dilemma of choosing between FCL (Full Container Load) and LCL (Less than Container Load) shipping. In this blog, we look at what is LCL shipping, exploring its definition, advantages, and considerations for businesses looking to optimize their shipping strategies.

What is LCL Shipping?

What is LCL Shipping

LCL shipping, or Less than Container Load shipping, is a method of transporting relatively smaller quantities of cargo that do not fill an entire shipping container. Instead of reserving an entire container for their goods, shippers have the option to share space within a container with cargo from other companies or suppliers.

How does LCL shipping work?

What is LCL Shipping and How does it Work

LCL (Less than Container Load) shipping works by consolidating multiple smaller shipments from different shippers into a single container for transportation. Here’s a step-by-step overview of how LCL shipping typically works:

1. Cargo Collection:

Shippers prepare their goods for shipment according to the requirements specified by the freight forwarder or shipping company. This includes proper packaging and labeling of the cargo.

2. Cargo Consolidation:

Once the individual shipments are ready, they are collected by the freight forwarder or shipping company and brought to a consolidation facility or warehouse. At the facility, the shipments are grouped together based on factors such as destination, shipping schedule, and compatibility.

3. Container Loading:

Once a sufficient volume of cargo has been accumulated for a particular destination, the shipments are loaded into a shipping container. The container may be loaded manually or using specialized equipment such as forklifts or pallet jacks.

4. Documentation and Customs Clearance:

Before the container can be transported, the freight forwarder or shipping company completes the necessary documentation, including bills of lading, customs declarations, and other required paperwork. Customs clearance procedures may also be initiated at this stage to ensure compliance with import/export regulations.

5. Transportation:

Once all documentation is in order and customs clearance has been obtained, the container is transported to the port of departure. At the port, the container is loaded onto a cargo vessel for transportation to the destination port.

6. Unloading and Deconsolidation:

Upon arrival at the destination port, the container is unloaded from the cargo vessel and transferred to a deconsolidation facility or warehouse. Here, the container is unpacked, and the individual shipments are sorted based on their final destination.

7. Last-Mile Delivery:

Finally, the shipments are loaded onto trucks or other modes of transportation for delivery to their respective recipients. Depending on the destination, additional customs clearance and documentation may be required before the cargo can be released for delivery.

What is the difference between LCL and FCL?

What is the Difference Between LCL and FCL Shipping

LCL (Less than Container Load) and FCL (Full Container Load) are two different shipping methods used in maritime transport:

1. LCL (Less than Container Load):

  • In LCL shipping, multiple smaller shipments from different shippers are consolidated into a single container for transportation. Each shipper pays only for the space their cargo occupies within the container.
  • LCL is suitable for small to medium-sized shipments that do not fill an entire shipping container.
  • Shippers using LCL benefit from cost savings by sharing container space with other shipments.

2. FCL (Full Container Load):

  • In FCL shipping, an entire shipping container is exclusively dedicated to a single shipper’s cargo. The shipper pays for the entire container, regardless of whether it is fully loaded or not.
  • FCL is suitable for larger shipments that fill an entire shipping container or require the security and privacy of a dedicated container.
  • Shippers using FCL have more control over their shipments and may experience faster transit times since there is no need for consolidation or deconsolidation.

Which is cheaper LCL or FCL?

The cost-effectiveness of LCL (Less than Container Load) versus FCL (Full Container Load) shipping depends on various factors such as the volume and nature of the cargo, destination, and shipping routes. Here are some considerations:

1. Volume of Cargo:

LCL is typically more cost-effective for smaller shipments that do not fill an entire container. Shippers pay only for the space their cargo occupies within the container, making it a more economical option for smaller volumes.

2. Frequency of Shipments:

If a shipper has frequent smaller shipments, LCL may be more cost-effective than FCL since they can share container space with other shipments, reducing overall transportation costs.

3. Cargo Characteristics:

Certain types of cargo may be more suitable for LCL due to their size, weight, or packaging requirements. For example, goods that do not require a full container or are not time-sensitive may be better suited for LCL shipping.

4. Transit Time:

FCL shipments may have faster transit times compared to LCL since there is no need for consolidation or deconsolidation of cargo. However, this may vary depending on the shipping route and carrier.

How is LCL freight calculated?

What is LCL Shipping and How it Calculated

LCL (Less than Container Load) freight is calculated based on the volume or weight of the cargo being shipped. Here’s how it’s typically calculated:

1. Volume Calculation:

The volume of the cargo is calculated by multiplying the length, width, and height of each individual package or pallet. The total volume of all packages is then added together to determine the overall volume of the shipment.

2. Weight Calculation:

If the weight of the cargo is greater than the volume weight (calculated using the volume), then the weight of the cargo is used to determine the shipping cost. Otherwise, the volume weight is used.

3. Minimum Charge:

Most LCL shipments have a minimum charge, which is the minimum amount that the shipping company will charge for transporting the cargo, regardless of its volume or weight.

4. Rate Per Cubic Meter or Cubic Foot:

LCL freight rates are often quoted per cubic meter or cubic foot of cargo space. The rate may vary depending on factors such as the origin and destination of the shipment, the shipping route, and the shipping company.

5. Additional Charges:

In addition to the base freight rate, there may be additional charges for services such as packing, handling, customs clearance, and delivery to the final destination.


In conclusion, LCL shipping offers businesses a cost-effective and flexible solution for transporting smaller quantities of goods internationally. By understanding the advantages and considerations associated with LCL shipping, businesses can optimize their shipping strategies and effectively navigate the complexities of global trade. Whether shipping a few pallets or several cubic meters of cargo, LCL shipping provides a reliable and efficient means of reaching customers worldwide.

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