For most shippers, their international cargo is simply placed inside of an ocean freight container and shipped overseas. When this occurs, this type of shipment is called FCL, which means full container load. The reason from this name stems from the usage of an entire container when using ocean freight shipping. When you ship FCL, you usually pay a flat rate to ship ocean freight containers. With FCL, there is only one owner of the cargo inside. A typical 20-foot container holds 33 cubic meters worth of cargo and a 40-foot container has a maximum capacity of 68 cubic meters.
What if your cargo’s volume is significantly smaller than the space available in a container? Instead of paying full price for a full container, you could do something else. That is why LCL, or less than container load, might be the option for you. If your cargo’s capacity is smaller than the space in the container, you can work with your freight forwarder and you can get you a deal on LCL shipping. The freight forwarder will consolidate your cargo with other smaller shipments in a container. Usually, this might be a lower price since you will only pay for the space you use. The price for LCL is based on volume (length, width and height) and the number of pieces.
When shipping LCL, there are a few things to consider. You would have to account for additional time to separate the cargo from the container at the destination port. This could result in longer transit times. The freight insurance might cost more and the overall rate could be more. These are things to consider when choosing between LCL and FCL.