Trading Up: From LCL to FCL

Companies that produce large, heavy products generally start by shipping in full container load (FCL) ocean freight shipments. But the majority of companies start small. They either use air (costly, but efficient), or they engage the services of a freight forwarder or consolidator and share a container with someone else.

A lot of importers think that they need to ship less than container load (LCL) until they have enough product to fill a full 20’ container themselves. That isn’t true. Here are three things that you should know about “graduating” from LCL to FCL freight. It might make sense to do it sooner than later!

trading up from LCL to FCL

You don’t need to fill the whole container for FCL to make more sense
If the cargo takes up approximately 50% of the 20’ container payload capacity, many shippers find that it makes sense to do a cost comparison. At 50% of the payload, or 10 CBM, there is a high likelihood the cost a full container is preferable to the per-cubic-meter costs of an LCL shipment.

When time is a priority, FCL wins
Since a third party is bundling your goods with another shipper’s in an LCL arrangement, your departure date is dependent on the consolidator filling up that box. Your shipment often has to make extra stops at transshipment ports rather than taking the most direct route.

Even if your goods move at a desirable time, LCL shippers are at the mercy of others at the destination port. Your shipment is “only as customs-ready as the weakest paperwork”; if the other shipper with goods in your box has his product stopped by customs, yours will be held up as well.

And finally, you’ll experience longer transit times for delivery after the shipment arrives at the port. This is because the consolidator must now break down the shipments in the container and send each on to its final destination.

Be aware of higher risk of damage for LCL shipments
You’ll lose the ability to control what your product is packed with if you ship LCL. Your goods may be damaged if they aren’t optimally arranged with the others in the container. Because of this unpredictability, the cost of insurance is higher.

Making the decision to move from LCL to FCL can seem daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re on the fence about what your costs or transit time will look like, consider signing up with Haven. Many customers turn to us to make an informed decision. Whichever method you choose, Haven can easily connect you with the right suppliers.