Do you need cargo containers to ship your consignments? Wondering whether to go for FCL or LCL containers? Let us help you understand the types, differences and make you understand which serves your need the best.

With the rise of globalization and the increase in international businesses, more goods are required to be transported daily. Though there are a lot of different transportation methods, maritime shipping is used most extensively. With freight that requires to be transported to different parts of the world, cargo containers come in to use. You can even trade containers online from your home. Shippers or exporters can choose from a wide variety of cargo containers to transport their shipment. Size, cost of shipment, and time are the leading factors for shippers/exporters to determine what kind of service they want to avail.

Cargo containers used in the shipping industry follow certain specifications that are laid down by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO). They have specific dimensions of 8, 10, 20, 30, or 40 feet. If you require cargo containers, read through this article to understand what kind of container suits your need the best and which follows the ISO standards. Moreover, you can choose from a variety of different types of cargo containers as per your need. Some of the most common designs of different containers types that are in use are-

  • Tunnel design, with double doors on both sides.
  • Open-sided vessels having one door that can be pulled down, covering a complete side.
  • Double door cargo containers that have doors on both sides.
  • Open-top designs with removable roof.
  • Refrigerated containers for perishable cargo.
  • Tank designs for liquids.
  • Half-height designs ideal for heavy machinery.
  • Collapsible Flat racks that are used to transport big-size machinery. 
  • Bulkers, designed for granular cargoes.

When you search for freight shipping, apart from the above-mentioned options, you will also need to look into factors like custom procedures and rules, after which you will need to decide how you want to ship your consignment. There are mainly two different ways involved:

  • FCL
  • LCL

Wonder what these shipping terms – FCL and LCL mean?

FCL stands for Full Container Load whereas LCL stands for Less than Container Load. When looking for freight shipping a major determining factor is the volume of the consignment, which is usually measured in cubic meters or cubic feet, i.e. the space that your cargo will occupy. FCL containers are used by a single consignee, usually used to transport heavy volumes of goods. LCL is shared amongst several consignees. They are used for transporting freight that does not require entire spaces.

Freight forwarders often book cargoes under the LCL category from different traders and then consolidate and put them in an FCL container. The decision of the type of cargo container to be used for shipping depends on your needs. Besides, the volume of consignment, attention is given to the business requirements, inventory demands, cost, and type of product.

What is FCL and how does it work?

As mentioned earlier, FCL is claimed by only one consignee, regardless of the space, the freight occupies inside. It is the best option if the shipper wants to transport consignments that take up the entire space. There is no option to share an FCL, though a single trader can use it to transport multiple cargoes if he/she desires to. They come in a variety of dimensions to suit your needs.

Why choose FCL?

The cost of per unit freight is less in FCL as compared to LCL. In terms of time taken for transportation, FCL is faster since it only transports cargo from one trader. It is more suitable for bulky and heavy goods and has less cost. As the container is leased or owned by a single company, the risks of damage are also low, as are the transportation and insurance charges. Another major point to mention here is the fact that only FCL has the options of Flexibags. Flexibags or flexitanks are alternative to the ISO tank containers for shipping fluids and non-hazardous chemicals across the globe. You can choose between tank containers and Flexibags if you want to transport any fluid substances.

What is LCL and how does it work?

Traders shipping freight that does not require the entire space in the cargo containers, i.e. smaller goods are advised to go for LCL containers. It is shared amongst many consignees depending upon their needs. Cargoes belonging to different parties are packed together in one container and shipped together. It gets separated at different places depending upon the destination. It is cheaper in terms of the total cost when compared to FCL as the shipping cost is shared amongst the consignees, though the freight per unit cost is higher in terms of LCL as it depends on the dimensions and weight of the consignment. There exists a possibility of delay at the hands of customs authorities due to sorting and different documentations.

Why choose LCL?

Even though the time required is possibly greater, it is suitable for small scale goods as it is relatively cheaper. The warehousing and inventory costs are also lower due to less volume. Also, LCL prices are relatively stable when compared to its alternative, a rather volatile priced FCL.

Which one is better?

Now that you understand both FCL and LCL, you might wonder which one is comparatively better than the other. To understand this, you need to compare which one is more fitting and profitable for your job. Transit time plays a major role. LCL, with its many trans-shipment ports, loading-unloading, documentation, processing, and customs are prone to delay. But, if there is no rush and the said freight is smaller, then LCL is the logical choice. However, you must keep in mind that LCL charges depend on the cubic meters/feet it occupies, i.e. it depends on the volume. But, after a certain limit, it is charged based on weight. In such cases, compare the LCL charges by including the haulage charges and destination charges and then compare it with the FCL charges. In some cases, you might find that booking FCL is much more profitable even though you can go for LCL as well. 

When the volume of cargo is more or very little, choosing between FCL and LCL is quite easier. But, in other instances, you will need to compare the shipping costs with the ease and pace of logistical processes and find the most suitable option.

Now, that you understand the ideal processes to be followed before selecting the type of cargo container you require, it will not be hard to get it. If you are in need of cargo containers, then you don’t have to worry anymore. You can now buy shipping containers online from the comfort of your home or office. Whichever container you need is now a click away from serving your need.