FCL and LCL | Meaning and Difference

FCL and LCL, Meaning and Difference

Hey there, new exporter! Congratulations on taking your first steps into the world of international trade. Shipping your products overseas is a big deal, and you'll often hear about FCL and LCL. These are just two ways of sending your stuff to far-off places, like sending a package to a friend.

In this blog, we'll keep things easy to understand. We'll explain FCL meaning, LCL meaning, how FCL and LCL work, and what they mean for you, especially when you're sending things that can go bad, like food. We'll talk about the costs and a cool thing called the Theory of Constraints (TOC).

By the end, you'll have a better idea of which option is right for your shipments. So, let's dive in and learn about FCL and LCL, just for you, the new exporter.

What are FCL and LCL for Ocean Freight?

FCL (Full Container Load) for Ocean Freight:

FCL stands for "Full Container Load." When you choose FCL for ocean freight , you're reserving an entire shipping container exclusively for your cargo. This means the container is filled with your goods only, providing more control and security for your shipment. FCL is a suitable option for larger shipments that can fill a whole container.

LCL (Less than Container Load) for Ocean Freight:

LCL stands for "Less than Container Load." Opting for LCL means your cargo shares a shipping container with goods from other shippers. This is a cost-effective choice for smaller shipments that don't require a full container. However, it may involve more handling and potentially longer transit times due to multiple stops for loading and unloading various goods in the same container.

So, it's all about how much stuff you're shipping. If it's a lot, go with FCL. If it's not so much, LCL works just fine.

Key Differences between FCL and LCL Containers

FCL (Full Container Load):

  1. You get the whole container to yourself.
  2. Best for big shipments that fill the entire container.
  3. More control and security for your goods.
  4. Generally, a fixed price, regardless of the cargo volume.

LCL (Less than Container Load):

  1. You share the container with others.
  2. Ideal for smaller shipments that don't need the whole container.
  3. Can be cost-effective for smaller cargo volumes.
  4. Costs are based on the space your goods occupy within the shared container.

Essential Documents for FCL and LCL Shipments

When shipping goods , it's important to have all the necessary documents in place to ensure a smooth process. 

The following documents are required for both FCL and LCL shipments:

1. Bill of Lading / Ocean Bill of Lading: A bill of lading is a receipt and contract for carriage. 

2. Certificate of Origin: A Certificate of Origin confirms the country of origin of the goods. 

3. Commercial Invoice: A commercial invoice provides details about the transaction and the goods being shipped.  

4. Packing List: A packing list is a list of all the contents and quantities.  

5. Fumigation Certificate: This may be required for pest control purposes.

6. Inspection Certificate: Ensures that the goods are compliant with the relevant standards. 

7. Insurance (Marine Insurance): It is recommended to have insurance for cargo protection.

It's important to consult with your shipping provider for specific requirements related to these documents.

Shipment Volume for FCL and LCL


FCL is a better choice when your shipment is larger, typically filling more than 10 standard pallets or taking up more than 14 cubic meters of space in a container. It's a good option for big shipments that need a whole container.


LCL is best for small shipments, usually between 2 and 13 cubic meters in size. Sometimes, even smaller shipments, less than 2 cubic meters, can use LCL.

Weight Limits in Ocean Shipping: LCL and FCL

When shipping goods across the ocean, it's important to know about weight limits. Here's how they work for LCL and FCL shipments:

LCL (Less than Container Load)

For LCL shipments, you usually can't pack more than 10,000 kilograms (10 tons) into one cubic meter of space. If you go over this weight, you'll be charged extra.

FCL (Full Container Load)

With FCL, it's not just about weight per cubic meter. The limit depends on the type of container you use. Make sure your cargo doesn't go over the maximum weight allowed for that container type. If it does, you might need to split your cargo into multiple containers or choose a bigger one.

Understanding these limits keeps your cargo safe and helps you avoid unexpected charges. Work with your shipping provider to pick the right container and stay within the weight limits, whether you're shipping LCL or FCL.

Speed of Delivery: FCL vs. LCL

FCL (Full Container Load):

  • Faster delivery is possible as your container is ready for pickup upon arrival. Faster delivery is possible as your container is ready for pickup upon arrival.
  • Watch out for returning the container promptly to avoid extra fees. Watch out for returning the container promptly to avoid extra fees.

LCL (Less than Container Load):

  • Slower delivery, typically about four days longer than FCL. Slower delivery, typically about four days longer than FCL.
  • Possible delays if one item in the container faces customs issues, affecting the entire shipment. Possible delays if one item in the container faces customs issues, affecting the entire shipment.

In summary, FCL is quicker, but you need to manage container return times. LCL is cost-effective but slower due to consolidation and customs considerations. Consider your timing and budget when choosing between them.

Choosing Between FCL and LCL: What to Consider

Picking between FCL and LCL isn't a one-size-fits-all decision. Here's a straightforward guide:

FCL: Faster and secure. Great for larger shipments.

LCL: More flexible and convenient. Perfect for smaller importers.

Small importers often go with LCL, while larger ones might save with FCL. When it comes to shipping, partnering with a trusted company like " Citrus Freight " is key. We can expertly guide you through these choices, ensuring your cargo, whether it's perishable goods or anything else, reaches its destination seamlessly.

Think about what your business needs and get advice from 'Citrus Freight,' the company you can trust for shipping help that suits your needs.