When it comes to international shipments, one of the most vital factors to consider is load size. Not only does this determine the most appropriate means of freight movement, but it allows us to understand the container requirements too. FCL and LCL are both container specifications used within this industry to protect shipments from damage and loss. Understanding each one and their differences allow you to make an informed decision that suits the needs of your business perfectly.

What is FCL?

FCL or Full Container Load is when a cargo shipment takes up the entire space within a standard container. This could refer to either a 20ft or 40ft container, depending on requirements and is recognised as a standard size denotation by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). Here, all of the goods within a container are owned by one shipper.


The main difference between FCL and LCL is the process. With FCL, the goods are generally packed into the container at the factory before being taken to the port and loaded. Once the container arrives at its end destination, it goes through and passes customs and is then delivered, in full, to your chosen end destination. This process is generally quicker than LCL and is cheaper per cbm if you’re shipping in high quantities. The risk of damage is minimised as only you and the supplier touch the goods. However, the number of delivery options are restricted and you need to import high quantities of stock to make it a financially viable option.

What is LCL?

LCL or Less Than Container Load is the opposite. It is when your shipment won’t fill an entire standard container. In this instance, your shipment is consolidated with that from other shippers and transported together in a container. Each container has multiple consignees.


The LCL process is slightly longer than FCL due to stopping points. Generally, you will need to transport your goods to a loading warehouse where it is consolidated with that of other shippers. This is then taken to the port and loaded on the vessel before passing through the destination country’s customs. The container is then delivered to another loading warehouse where it is unpacked. You then need to organise shipping from this warehouse to your end destination/supplier.

This option is ideally suited for those shipping smaller quantities. Instead of paying for an entire container, you pay for the space you take up inside of a shared one. However, this can turn out to be more expensive than FCL in the long run and your delivery times will be extended too. There is also an increased risk of damage with more touchpoints along the way.

Choosing the right option for your business depends on shipment size, required delivery lead times and the fragility of your product. Speaking to an experienced Freight Forwarder, such as our team here at Radius Warehouse and Logistic Services, will help you to clearly understand the scope of your requirements. Get in contact today or request a free quote from our website.