Less Container Load (LCL) is a container shipping term used to describe an arrangement where by the cargo space in a container is made available to more than one consignee (cargo owner). This situation arises when an exporter or consignee is unable to provide enough cargo to fill the cargo space in a container and therefore it would make economic sense to share the space in the shipping ‘box’ (container) with other cargo owners. The term ‘Less Container Load’ does not literally mean that the container has not been loaded to its full capacity but rather it means that no single exporter exclusively owns the cargo space in
the container, So in situations where a container is loaded to its full capacity but containing cargo belonging to two or more exporters , it would still be considered less container load.
The term is usually used in a consolidated shipment where the shipper (consolidator) combines cargo from different owners into a single container and issues a ‘House Bill of Lading’ to each consignee. Even though this might make some economic sense with regards cost of transport, it exposes your cargo to the risk of damage or contamination by other cargoes which usually are not homogeneous in nature.
Full Container Load (FCL) is also a shipping term describing the situation where the entire cargo space in a shipping container is made available to one consignee (cargo owner). What this means is that the consignee has exclusive usage of the cargo space in a container. It should also be noted that , the container might not necessarily be loaded to its full capacity, in fact it could be half empty but would still be considered Full Container Load since the cargo belongs to a single owner. It is more appropriate when transporting homogeneous goods.
This might seem a little expensive especially when you do not have enough cargo to fill up the container and yet the same rate is charged for the transport of a standard container (whether full or half empty). The advantage however, with this option is that, the cargo runs less risk of damage or contamination from other cargoes from different consignees and also the seal to the container still remains intact and would only be broken with your concern, hence you run less risk of theft or pilferage.
As an exporter/importer therefore, it is up to you to make a decision with regards which option best suites your needs and more cost efficient taking into consideration the type and nature of your cargo, for instance if you are transporting very fragile goods or highly perishable products , you may not want to run the risk of the bumping and hassle during the consolidation and deconsolidation process as pertaining to the Less Container Load.
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