What is FCL (Full Container Load)?

September 15 , 2022 | CATEGORY : SERVICES

In shipping and transportation, FCL (full container load) is when a company uses a container in its entirety for transporting the freight. The term FCL is most commonly used for sea freight. When an exporter hires the entire container, it does not necessarily mean the container is full, it simply means the shipment does not share the container space with any other goods. The exporter has exclusive rights to the entire container; whereas in LCL (less than container-load), the exporter hires space in a container, as opposed to the entire container, meaning the space in the container is shared by the goods of other exporters.

How does FCL (Full Container Load) shipping work?

Step 1: Bookingshipment – Contact the logistics service provider and book the FCL shipment. Provide the relevant shipment specifications and details to the project cargo forwarder. The service provider then arranges for the entire shipment to be transported as per the specified needs.

Step 2: Preparing the consignment for shipping – The freight forwarder starts preparing the shipment by getting all the goods in order to initiate packaging, which is then securely shipped.

Step 3: ‘Drayage’ – As soon as the goods are packed into the container, they are ‘drayed’ or transported towards the port from where all the goods are exported.

Stage 4: Transit - Once at the port, the FCL shipment goes through the process of transit to its desired destination.

Stage 5: Pickup/ delivery - Once the shipment arrives at the destination port, the goods are off-loaded from the vessel. Special transport arrangements are made to deliver the goods either to the warehouse or to their final point of destination.

Benefits of shipping using a full container load (FCL)

Speed – Since the entire shipment only contains contents of a single exporter, the goods do not need to be loaded or unloaded multiple times during transit. This means it takes a shorter time to ship as compared to LCL. It is also the fastest way to ship goods after air freight.

Cheaper – When hiring a container for FCL shipments, a flat fee for the entire container is paid, whereas, for LCL shipments, cost on a per-unit basis is paid. This is true especially if goods are shipped in large volumes or quantities. With volumes of 13 cubic meters and above shipping costs for FCL is less than LCL for shipments.

Safe transportation – The container is loaded in the factory and is only unloaded when it reaches its warehouse destination. The container stays sealed throughout transit, minimizing the possibility of damaged cargo. Since all the goods are of a single exporter, there is no risk of contamination from other cargo. This makes FCL the best option for shipping large, fragile (ceramics, chemicals) and expensive goods. FCL also allows for humidity and temperature control by making use of reefers (refrigerated containers) for cargo like fresh produce. Reefers aren’t often used in other modes of freight transport.

How do FCL rates work?

FCL shipments require to pay a flat ‘commodity box rate’ for the entire container. An FCL quote usually includes pick-up charges, delivery charges, ocean freight, and terminal handling charges (at the port of origin and destination).

However, FCL rates can fluctuate based on various factors such as availability, GRI (General rate increase), peak season price spikes, and holiday delays.

Why choose FCL shipments instead of LCL shipping?

FCL shipments are ideal for transporting large, heavy shipments. and are considered over LCL under the following conditions:

Paying a flat rate for an FCL container is worth, as industry estimates say it makes more sense to ship consignments with a volume of 13 cubic meters or more or comprising 12 pallets via FCL as it makes better use of container space.

Since FCL shipments are second only to air freight in their delivery time, it is ideal for consignments with tight delivery schedules. Its shorter transit time means most FCL shipments are usually delivered between three to six weeks.

For expensive, fragile and sensitive cargo, FCL shipments make the most sense because there is little risk of contamination from other cargo. The minimal handling in transit also offers more cargo security.

Although FCL shipments are ideal in the above situations, it is important to understand the different options for transit and the nature of the goods, in order to choose the best mode of transport suitable for the unique shipping conditions of the freight.