Full Container Load (FCL) Guide, Meaning & FAQs

Full Container Load, or FCL, is a type of shipment where the shipper fills up an entire container with his/her cargo. At times, some parts of the container might remain vacant, but the shipper books the entire container and pays for the whole of it. When the quantity of cargo is big, FCL is the standard form of shipment. The entire Bill of Lading is in the name of a single shipper.

Containers are a convenient way to ship cargo across locations. They are durable and come in various dimensions. As per the International Standards Organization (ISO), containers have lengths of 8, 10, 20, 30, or 40 feet. In international shipping, primarily the following container types are used – 20’, 40’, 40’HC, and 45’HC.

Some typical features of containers

  • Tunnel design containers with double doors at both ends.
  • Open-sided containers with a door at one side that can be opened completely.
  • Open-top containers that have a detachable roof, usually made of tarpaulin.
  • Reefers or refrigerated containers that are used to carry perishable cargo & medicines.
  • Collapsible racks that are used to carry vehicles.
  • Tank containers that carry liquid cargo.
  • Flat rack containers that have no roofs and side panels. They are used to carry bulk and oversized cargo.

The full form of FCL is full container load. Here is an example of an FCL (Full Container Load)

Full Container Load truck

Here are few FAQs of FCL:

Advantages of FCL shipping

  • The entire stuffing of the container happens at the shipper’s premises. The sealed container is then taken to the port for shipping or transported to overland destinations via trucks. Thus, there is a much lesser risk of damage that occurs due to multiple handling.
  • For shipments with large volumes, FCL works out to be more cost-effective for the shipper.
  • FCL shipments take lesser time as delays due to multiple loading & unloading are avoided.
  • It is a much cheaper option compared to air freight. 

Disadvantages of FCL shipping

  • When you are shipping big quantities, you need to maintain a sizeable space for inventory. This increases your overhead expenses.
  • FCL handling needs specialized knowledge. So, if you don’t have the suitable staff equipped with this knowledge, you would need to avail of the services of a specialized freight forwarder at a cost.
  • Unloading an FCL shipment can be stressful at times.
  • During peak season, charges for a full container might increase to a fair extent.

What are the common sizes of a container?

  • 20′ container
  • 40′ container
  • 40′ container
  • 45′ container

When to choose FCL?

It’s simple, actually. If your cargo size is more than 15 cbm, it would be better to choose FCL as your overall costs will be lower per cbm. So, if you are transporting big volume cargo, opt for the FCL mode.

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