When Should You Ship Full Containers (FCL) and Less than Containers (LCL)?


When should you use LCL ocean freight and when should you use FCL ocean freight?

The obvious answer would appear to be that you should ship full containers when you have enough stuff to fill the container and LCL, otherwise. This isn’t quite true.

From a financial perspective, a full container 75% or greater full is normally cheaper than shipping LCL (in other words, LCL has around a 25% pro-rated surcharge). However, there are two other important considerations as well. First, LCL has transit times around 1-2 weeks longer than FCL. That’s because the freight forwarder has to pack your items and unpack your items with other people.

Second, LCL cargo is more prone to loss and damage (although it’s very rare) because of this additional handling. If time and care are important for you, shipping even a half empty container can sometimes make sense.

Ocean Freight Has High Fixed Costs and Many Surcharges
With Ocean freight, there are a lot of surprise fees when the shipment comes to your country. When you receive an invoice from your freight forwarder you may be shocked at how many fees exist outside of the actual ocean freight. Below are some sample fees you can be expected to pay:

The last two fees, Customs Clearance Fee and Final Truck Transportation, you can technic and do yourself. In reality, no one ever does this themselves.

These are just the fees once your shipment arrives in your home country. They do not include the fees from within China (which can vary significantly depending on what your incoterms are) or the actual cost of the sea freight itself.