What is FCL shipping in logistics?

In shipping and logistics, FCL means Full Container Load. The meaning of FCL, as its name suggests, is shippers having an entire container in which it can load its cargo. Under a Full Container Load, goods and merchandise in a container are loaded and unloaded under a single consignee.

Unlike LCL shipping, FCL means that you have the entire container’s space to yourself and will not be sharing your container with other shippers.

This, however, does not mean that you need to fill the entire container. Even though you’re entitled to a FCL load, you may fill the container only partially, which is a fairly common practice in the ocean freight industry.

Shipping FCL

FCL shipping cost

A partial full container load is often less expensive to ship because there is none of the consolidating and handling fees associated with loose cargo like in an LCL shipment.

With FCL shipping, you may ship in a 20-foot container, 40-foot container, or 40-foot high cube container.

Most FCL loads are door-to-port, but it is possible to ship FCL port-to-port, port-to-door, or door-to-door. In the export and import business, the shipper is usually responsible for the door-to-port portion and the consignee is responsible for everything from the port of destination to his warehouse. However, you should refer to the Incoterm agreed upon for clearer obligations and financial responsibilities and how they’re divided between exporter and importer.

Preparing your FCL shipment

The shipper’s ability to pack and load a container in an efficient manner can reduce shipping costs significantly. There are specialized packing companies that can handle the palletizing or construction of wood boxes.

If you decide to pack your own container, this is referred to as “live load”. The full container will arrive at your residence or warehouse on a truck and you will be given two hours to load your cargo. If you need more than two hours, please make your request in advance. Any additional time will be charged by the hour.

Pallets for FCL shipping

There are two types of commonly-used pallets:

  • Standard: 47 ¼” X 39 ⅜” or 1.2m X 1m
  • Euro: 47 ¼” X 31 ½” or 1.2m X 0.8m

A standard container, both 20-foot and 40-foot, has a door opening of dimensions 7’ 8” X 7’ 6” X 19’ 4” (2.34m X 2.28m X 5.898m x 5.898m).

You will need to secure and put your shipment onto pallets. A 20-foot full container fits 10 standard pallets or 12 Euro pallets on the floor of the container, unstacked. And a 40-foot full container fits 20 standard pallets or 24 Euro pallets, unstacked.

FCL vs LCL

The general rule is: if you are shipping fewer than 6 standard pallets in a 20-foot container or 12 standard pallets or more in a 40-foot container, it might be more cost effective to ship your cargo via LCL than FCL.

In FCL shipping, the FCL load is loaded into the container at origin, which is only opened upon arrival at destination.

In an LCL shipment, however, goods may be removed from the original container in which they were loaded and loaded into another container during transshipment and then handled again at destination for sorting and distribution purposes. The increase in handling exposes your cargo to higher risks of damage and/or loss.

FCL is charged with a flat rate per container, whereas LCL prices vary depending on the volume the merchandise occupies in a container.