FCL Shipments: Unlocking the Benefits and Strategies for an Efficient Container Shipping

FCL shipments refer to the shipping of goods that occupy the entire space of a shipping container. FCL shipments are preferred by businesses that have a large volume of goods to transport as it is more cost-effective than shipping multiple smaller loads or LCL shipments.

This article will tackle the benefits and strategies so that businesses can minimize transportation costs, reduce the risk of cargo damage, and ensure the timely delivery of their goods.

What is FCL and its Role in the Supply Chain?

FCL stands for Full Container Load,  a type of sea freight shipping service offered by carriers in the logistics industry.  In FCL shipping, a single container is allocated to a single customer and is loaded with that customer’s cargo alone.

FCL is an important element of the supply chain because it provides a reliable and cost-effective method of shipping large volumes of goods over long distances. With FCL, shippers can benefit from lower shipping costs compared to other modes of transportation such as air freight or less-than-container load (LCL) shipping.

What are the Different Container Sizes and their Capacity?

Standard container sizes and their capacity vary depending on the type of container and the industry it is being used. Here is a list of the most common container sizes used in shipping and transportation:

20-foot Container (20ft)

20ft container is the most common container size for shipping. It has a dimension of 20 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8.5 feet tall. It has a maximum capacity of 1,1170 cubic feet and can hold up to 10 standard-size pallets.

40-foot Container (40ft)

This container is double the size of the 20ft container. It has a dimension of 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8.5 feet tall. Its capacity is around 2390 cubic feet and can hold up to 20 standard pallets.

40-foot High Cube (40ft HC)

This container is also 40 feet long, and 8 feet wide but it is taller than a standard 40ft container with a height of 9.5 feet. 40ft HC has a capacity of 3694 cubic feet and can hold up to 20 standard pallets.

45-foot Container (45ft)

This container is 45 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 9.5 feet tall. It has a capacity of around 3040 cubic feet and can hold up to 28 pallets.

53-foot Container (53ft)

The 53ft container is the largest commonly used in trucking and intermodal transportation. It has a dimension of 53 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8.5 feet tall. This container has a capacity of 3800 cubic feet and can hold up to 30 pallets.

What are the Pros and Cons when shipping FCL?

Shipping with FCL has several advantages and disadvantages to note and consider:


Cost Effective: FCL shipment is more cost-effective than shipping in small quantities of cargo because the cost of shipping an FCL container is lesser per unit than shipping goods in smaller quantities with an LCL container. FCL pricing is generally cheaper than LCL shipment.

Greater security: In FCL shipment, you have more control over the security of your cargo. You can seal the shipping container yourself, and the container will remain sealed until it reaches its final destination. This reduces the risk of theft and tampering with your cargo.

More control: With FCL shipments, you have more control over the shipping process. You can choose the shipping line, the departure, and arrival ports, and the container type. This allows you to tailor your shipments to your specific needs.

Faster transit time: FCL shipment has a faster transit time than shipping with LCL containers. This is because there are no additional stops to pick up or drop off goods from other shippers, and the container can be loaded and unloaded more quickly.

Reduce the risk of damage: When shipping in a full container, your goods are the only ones in the container, which reduces the risk of damage during transit. This is because your goods are not just jostling around with other shippers’ items, and there is no need for additional packing to protect against other goods.


Limited Flexibility: Due to its fixed container size and route requirements, the ability to make changes to your shipping plan is very limited.

Higher cost: FCL rates will be higher and more expensive than LCL shipments if you don’t have enough goods to fill the entire container space. You’ll have to pay a flat fee for the whole container but only a portion is filled.

Higher documentation requirements: FCL requires more documentation than LCL including custom clearance and other export and import paperwork.

Equipment issues: Instances such as equipment issues, delay in getting the container, or malfunctioning can delay your shipment and may incur added costs.

What are the Pre-shipment Documentations when Shipping FCL?

Full container load shipments require several pre-shipment documentation that is necessary to be prepared and submitted to various parties involved in the shipping process. This would ensure that the shipment is properly documented and in compliance with local and international regulations. Here are some key pre-shipment documents the shipper needs to prepare:

Bill of Lading

This is the paperwork provided by the carrier that serves as a receipt for the goods and provides evidence of the contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier. The bill of lading contains information such as the name of the shipper, description of the cargo, port of loading and discharge, and the terms and conditions of the shipment.

Commercial Invoice

This paperwork or document is prepared by the exporter that provides a detailed description of the cargo, the quantity, the unit price, and the total value. This document will be used by customs officials to assess duties and taxes on the shipment.

Packing list

This document provides a detailed list of items loaded inside the container including the weight, volume, and dimensions. The packing list helps the carrier to properly stow and secure the cargo within the container.

Certificate of Origin

This document certifies the country of origin of the goods. This document may be required by customs in the destination port to identify the eligibility of the goods for importation.

Export of declaration

This is a document required by the government of the exporting country to track the flow of goods and to collect trade statistics. The export declaration contains information such as the name and address of the exporter, the description of the goods, and the destination country.

Insurance certificate

This document provides evidence of insurance coverage for the shipment. The insurance certificate contains information such as the insurer, the coverage amount, and the risks covered.

What are the Fees Associated when Shipping with FCL?

Shipping to Amazon FBA

Labeling Fee

When shipping a whole container to Amazon FBA, products to be shipped in Amazon FC are required to have specific labels, including FNSKU labels, to ensure proper inventory management and tracking. If the product shipped doesn’t have labels, Amazon will charge a labeling fee to apply the labels to the products

Palletization Fee

When shipping full container loads to Amazon FBA, all products are required to be shipped on pallets to facilitate storage and handling at their FCs.

Delivery Fee

A delivery fee also known as a transportation fee is the shipping cost associated when shipping a full container load to Amazon FBA warehouses. This fee includes the cost of transporting the goods from the port of origin to the FBA warehouse.

Ocean freight

Ocean freight is the primary cost of container shipments and covers the transportation of containers from the port of origin to the destination port.

Container Deposit

A container deposit is a payment required by shipping lines when leasing containers to cover any damages or losses that may occur during transit.

Container Handling Charges

This fee is charged by the terminal for loading and unloading the containers onto the ship.

Customs Clearance Fee

This fee is covering the cost of processing custom paperwork and obtaining the required clearances for the container.

Terminal handling Charges

This fee is charged by the terminal for handling and storing the containers.

Fuel Surcharge

This is a fee for the cost of fuel in shipping the container.


Shippers may decide to buy cargo insurance to protect their cargo container from damage or loss during transit.

Demurrage and Detention Charges

Demurrage charges are fees charged by the shipping lines for the use of the container beyond the agreed timelines. If the consignee did not unload the cargo from the container within the time allowed, fees will charge daily until the container is returned.

Detention, on the other hand, is a fee charged by the shipping line for using the container beyond the agreed timeline for returning the container to the shipping line after it has been unloaded at the port of discharge.

Port Congestion Surcharge

It is an additional fee applied by shipping lines when there is congestion or there are operational challenges at the port. This is intended to cover the additional cost incurred by the shipping lines due to delays or inefficiencies caused by port congestion. This cost includes overtime payment for dockworkers, increased fuel consumption, and other expenses.

What are the Post-Shipment Evaluation and Improvements When Shipping with FCL?

To ensure you optimize the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of FCL shipment, here are several post-shipment evaluation and improvement measures to consider:

Evaluating Shipping time: When the container arrives at its destination, evaluate the time it took for the shipment to arrive. This will help you identify any delays or inefficiencies that can be improved in your future shipments.

Review total costs: It is vital to review the total shipping cost associated with the shipment to ensure that the rates charged by the carrier or freight forwarder are fair and reasonable. If any discrepancies are identified, it is important to address them with the freight forwarder to avoid similar issues in the future.

Assess cargo damage: Inspect the cargo for any damage during transit. It will help you identify issues with packaging or handling procedures that require improvement.

Review custom clearance: If the shipment was subject to customs clearance, it is essential to review the processes and procedures to ensure a smooth and efficient completion.

Improve communication: Communication is the key to any shipping process. Maintaining open communication with carriers, freight forwarders and other parties involved in the process is very important. It can help to identify and resolve any real-time issues for a smoother process in the future.


In conclusion, FCL shipments offer a range of benefits for businesses seeking to transport goods by sea shipment or over long distances, including cost, flexibility, and reduced risk of damage and loss. Pre-documentations and associated fees need to be taken into consideration in evaluating the cost-efficiency of FCL shipments.

It is also important to evaluate and monitor your post-shipment to identify issues or discrepancies as well as areas that need improvement for future or next shipment. By this, shippers can ensure that their shipments are properly documented, secured, and cost-effective.

Frequently Ask Questions?

What is the full capacity of a 20ft container?

The full capacity of the 20ft container is 33.2 cubic meters. However, it is important to note that the actual usable capacity may be slightly less due to factors such as the thickness of the container walls and the space taken up by the door gasket and other fixtures inside the container.

How to calculate the volume of my cargo in cubic meters?

To calculate the volume of your cargo, measure the dimensions (length, width, and height) in meters and multiply them together.

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