The respective meaning of the terms FCL and LCL is as follows:
FCL ----- full container load; full carload
less than container load;
loose container load;
less than carload;
FCL versus LCL
The word carload relates to the rail car. The FCL and LCL are differentiated, in practice, on whether the 'whole container' or 'not the whole container' is intended for the consignee.
The FCL means the load reaches its allowable maximum (or full) weight or measurement. In practice, however, the FCL in the ocean freight does not always mean packing a container to its full payload or full capacity. For example, an exporter books a 20' container that is intended for a consignee at FCL flat rate of US$1,500. If the consignment occupies 500 cu. ft. and weighs 5,000 kgs. only, the case is still FCL and the exporter has to pay US$1,500.
If an exporter intends to pack a container to the full capacity or full payload with the consignments of two or more consignees for the same destination, the case is LCL and the carrier will charge the LCL freight rate on each consignment. In the LCL arrangement, the shipper is required to deliver the cargo to the carrier's container freight station for containerization, thus there is no guarantee that the two or more consignments from the same exporter will share the same container. In some cases, the exporter is allowed to pack the container at their premises in the LCL arrangement, and then the carrier uses that same container to pack in more cargo from other shipper(s) to make a full container load at the container freight station.
Referring to the Case Sample: Container Selection (1), if the importer maintains the order at 1,500 cartons and no forwarder is involved, and if the high cube container service is not available, it may mean that there will be one 40' FCL plus 135 cartons LCL. A combination of FCL and LCL in a consignment, which is a typical aftermath from the cargo overflow, is a poor exporting and importing practice, taking into account the additional freight and other charges in both countries. All 1,500 cartons can be shipped by LCL, but the freight cost can be higher and the cargo may be exposed to a higher risk of damage and loss.
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