Ocean freight can carry enormous loads of cargo over long distances and covers over 90% of all goods transport because it is more reliable. Also, it is said maritime trade is bound by lesser international and carrier restrictions, and its freight emissions are lesser than air or road transport. Sea freight expenses vary depending on the load and space occupied in intermodal containers.

Full Container Load Overview

A shipment is termed full container load (FCL) when the cargo occupies the entire space of the container. The shipper reserves the entire container and doesn’t share it with other shipments. When the transportable load is enough to accommodate the whole container, shippers choose FCL as the most viable approach.

One significant advantage of FCL is the straightforward nature of customs and inspections, resulting in lesser waiting times. FCL facilitates lower cost per cubic meter irrespective of the container size. Typically, the container sizes include 20’, 40’, and 45’HC variants.

Types of Containers for Sea Freights

Irrespective of the cargo and the type of load, shippers have a range of container options to choose from. Their choice depends on the cargo type, required temperature regulations, and the distance it will travel.

  • Flat rack containers: For transferring large cargo like machinery, lumber, or oversized vehicles, containers with walls on their short ends are used. Shippers can tweak the collapsible walls, thus making it easier to accommodate more loads.

  • Standard dry containers: These standard box containers can carry dry loads over long distances. Often, shippers choose a moisture-free zone to prevent goods like vehicles from being affected by water. Shippers can also transport these containers by roadways or railways.

  • Tank and refrigerated containers: Bulk transportation of sensitive liquids, gases, and powders are made possible by tank containers. These containers generally have warning labels on them to make the transporters conscious. Some perishable items require refrigeration and temperature regulation. Refrigerated containers can carry these loads with ease.

FCL Processes

International standards set regulations for load transportation by sea freights that determine standards for intermodal bulk containers. Shipping corporations provide numerous options based on certain basic parameters.

FCL shipping considers the estimated costs, pre-condition to shipment loading, and consignor arrangements. Usually, FCL options available to consignors include:-

  • Door to door
  • Door to port
  • Port to door
  • Port to port

Modern-day consignments are entirely computerized, and the consignor can track shipment progress in real-time. The consignment forwarder will arrange all paperwork, provide the bill of lading, and initiate customs clearance.

Container Stuffing and Full Container Load Capacity

Before taking their cargo to be stuffed and left for delivery, consignors can choose to customize packaging methods. They can choose to:-

  • Summon an empty container to the consignor’s premises and bear the costs of stuffing the load.
  • Hire export packing experts who will collect the cargo and make packaging decisions from the consignor’s warehouse to the port.

Container stuffing is expensive and requires a lot of effort. However, the risk of FCL container packaging and maintaining FCL charges is borne only by the consignor and the shipper. There are multiple loading and renting options for cargo to reach the port from the warehouse premises.

Listed below are some options:-

  • Live load: A crucial container loading option offered by the shipping corporations, live loads allow consignors to load and secure their goods within a two-three hour window to avoid hourly surcharges.

  • Drop and pack: A more expensive and hassle-free way to load goods into containers is by drop and pack. Here, consignors can fill the containers within one day to one week, depending on the FCL weight and the time it takes to load them. This usually involves heavier loads like moving houses or complicated machinery.

Unused containers can find applications as makeshift dwelling places or temporary storage facilities. Freight forwarders can provide more information on holding containers for more extended periods.

Differences between FCL and LCL

Consignors can choose their container and load types in response to inventory size, incurred costs, and delivery speed. It is advantageous for most exporters to choose FCL freight because less than container loads (LCL) might be clubbed with other cargo.

The two differ in terms of:-

  • Inventory size: Although relatively inexpensive in terms of shipping volume, the LCL cost per unit is higher. Exporters choosing FCL to ship their items should ensure they can accommodate their goods in full containers. The per-unit cost is thus lower.

  • Pricing: Since LCL deals with smaller load volumes, consignees wish to pay accordingly. However, even LCL deliveries require paying for the entire container. Therefore, FCL offers good value for money and does not incur customs inspections.

  • Delivery speed: Since they come from a single source, FCL operates much faster than LCL. Since LCL accepts consignments from different shipments, it takes longer to match documents and sort them. Each LCL shipment might take days to be released from port authorities.

  • Damaged Goods: The likelihood of receiving damaged consignments is higher in LCL than in FCL. Since FCL involves one container containing a single commodity type, they are less liable to loose. LCL involves consignments from different shipments in a single container and is at a higher risk of damage.

How to Choose between FCL And LCL?

A consignor’s choice of shipping mode depends on the shipper’s intention and the cargo type. Companies can choose FCL, LCL, or both in response to their business needs and budget. Companies generally consider the following points to judge the load type.

  • Cargo volume and customization choices: The approximate cargo volume is a principal deciding factor for choosing shipment mode. For shipment volumes between two and 13 cubic meters, companies should choose LCL. However, for larger loads (greater than 13 cubic meters), FCL is the most obvious choice. Moreover, FCL offers enough room for container customizations to accommodate special or sensitive shipments.

  • Security: Companies tend to prioritize the safety and security of containers above everything else. Owing to the high probability of goods getting damaged in transit, companies might choose to transport even small shipments on FCL. Obtaining a container for transporting a single shipment type ensures better loading, unloading, and cargo health control. The pandemic has seen greater demand for FCL because it reduces contamination risks.

  • Cost management and delivery speed: Experts believe cost management is vital while identifying the ideal shipping mode. One should choose the shipping type depending on the cargo, time constraints, and special conditions (if any). Business enterprises should compare the cost per unit transportation expenses for FCL and LCL.

Consignors can choose shipping modes depending on the cargo type and cargo-specific requirements. To aid them in making better choices, freight forwarding service providers can offer in-depth knowledge on custom clearance and destination charges. To enable cargo segregation and added cargo security, consignors might consider FCL to transport their consignment.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What types of cargo can companies send via FCL?

Despite the limitations set by the International Maritime Organization, companies can send a large variety of cargo over sea freight. While personal vehicles and belongings generally require a container each, automobile manufacturers employ vehicle carrier ships to carry a fleet of vehicles. Moreover, there are designated bulk carriers for carrying specialized loads. This includes hydrocarbon oil tankers, petroleum product carriers, grain carriers, etc.

2. What are the standard costs involved in transporting cargo via LCL?

The cost will include moving empty containers from port to the warehouse, loading them, and shipping line charges. The shipper will advise the concerned company to pick a particular port. The company can then compare and calculate other costs such as destination charges.

3. What are the advantages of choosing FCL over LCL?

If the company has enough cargo to fill a container, they can spare themselves from separating their cargo from other cargo. The FCL shipping cost is comparatively lower if we consider the per-unit cost. Also, the time required for packing/unpacking for FCL is lesser.