FCL & LCL Shipping from China – The Ultimate Guide

LCL & FCL shipment is the main container shipping modes: FCL for Full Container Loads and LCL (Less than Container Loads). FCL shipping, also known as complete container shipment, is a shipment that occupies all of the container’s space without sharing it with any other merchandise.

LCL or groupage, as it’s also known, is a shipment that takes up a small portion of a container and is shipped with other merchandise from other shippers. LCL & FCL are the shipment terms that are used in international logistics. 

In this article, we will discuss the four important differences between LCL and FCL that the shippers need to consider before booking for the ocean freight shipment: security, volume, cost, and urgency.

LCL and FCL: Differentiations

Shipment volume

The shipment volume is the number of goods transported, and it is often measured in cubic feet or cubic meters. It is often the most critical factor in deciding between LCL or FCL shipments.

LCL or FCL? LCL is better than FCL for low-volume shipments between 2 and 13m 3. LCL may be used to ship merchandise less than 2m 3 in certain situations. FCL shipments are usually cheaper if the shipment has more than ten standard pallets or takes up more than 14m 3.

Cargo Security

Shippers want their merchandise safe and secure as they travel across the oceans. Not all shipments need the same level of security. Specific shipments are more susceptible to movements and changes than others.


An FCL shipment is more secure than an LCL shipment because it owns the entire container. LCL shipping isn’t at risk of damage or contamination from other merchandise. LCL might be a safer option for some shipments. LCL is a safer option for low-volume shipments, because they are compact and leave less room for movement.

Shipping Cost

When deciding whether to ship FCL, LCL, or FCL, the essential factor to consider is the cost of shipping. You can follow some guidelines, but there is a possibility that the FCL vs. LCL decision may become fuzzy.

  • LCL or FCL: It is best to use LCL for low-volume shipments (2-13m 3) and FCL when you ship higher volumes (13m 3 and more).
  • However, this guideline is not set in stone. FCL shipping may be better for volumes less than 13m 3. You can discuss FCL and LCL with your freight forwarder if you are unsure.
  • LCL & FCL shipment rates and stability can fluctuate. FCL shipping rates are more volatile than LCL shipping rates, which tend to be more stable. 

Shipment Urgent

Although it is essential to plan for a shipment, things might not always go according to plan, and the circumstances may not allow it. Other than the rates, consider how urgent your cargo must reach its destination when deciding between FCL or LCL.

FCL or LCL? Shipping FCL usually is the best option for urgent shipments or shipments that must arrive by a specific date, and LCL is more suitable for loads that have flexible dates.

In addition to transshipments, LCL shipments are more susceptible to delays due to the many handlings they undergo during their shipping journey. LCL shipments should be loaded and unloaded at every port of transshipment.

It may also be easier to book an LCL shipment than an FCL shipment during peak congestion periods like the shipping peak season from August to October or the weeks leading to China’s Golden Week. 

Which is more affordable – LCL or FCL?

It can be challenging to understand the differences between FCL and LCL. As a buyer, you might wonder which one is more affordable. This question is not easy to answer as many factors to consider. The primary considerations are shipment quantity, route, timeline, and cost.

LCL allows buyers to ship a lower volume of shipments, but the freight cost, including local fees, is generally higher than FCL when compared to the per CBM rate. It is always good to compare

LCL pricing with FCL if the CBM is sufficiently high. It is best to compare freight costs and transit times with freight forwarding companies if your shipment weight is less than 15 CBM. Any buyer will benefit from knowing the basics of shipping and finding a reliable freight forwarder when selecting the best method to ship their product.

FCL Advantages:

  • Lower risk. You have your own private space and less chance of damaging goods and packaging costs.
  • Consolidation time. FCL allows for faster freight consolidation.
  • One container is opened once and loaded, and it is then sent straight to the port.
  • It is easier to use space.
  • Tracking service. Tracking service is possible by using FCL to ship shipments from China.
  • The container number can be used to check the current location and the delivery date.
  • Cost-effective. I am shipping a lower CBM such as 10CBM is not economical.
  • A full container is cheaper if you need to ship over 15 cubic meters.
  • At least 50-70% must be used when using a container.

The Advantages of LCL:

  • Lower Prices for Low Volume. It is a viable option to ship lower volumes from China.
  • It is especially true for those who need to ship volumes as small as 2 or 3 cubic meters.
  • Less risk to your financial health. You may need to start with a small amount in LCL to ensure you’re satisfied with the product.
  • It allows you to cut costs when ordering large consignments.
  • More Per CBM Price.
  • Compared to FCL, the cost per CBM is higher.
  • If the volume of your shipment is approximately 15 cubic meters, then the LCL price of a 20ft container will be more, if you booked the container.


Whether you require FCL or LCL shipping to China, your products must arrive safely. Work with a trusted sourcing agent to ensure that the goods arrive safely and sound. Now you can worry about the cost and speed of your shipment. Insurance for critical shipments is a must, and it can protect you from financial losses if they occur.

Avi Hassan
the authorAvi Hassan