FCL Shipping: Container, Procedure, and Price 2022

FCL Shipping: Container, Procedure, and Price 2022

June 15, 2022

There are several methods to ship goods from one country to another: air express, air freight, LCL sea freight, and FCL sea freight. Most of the shippers choose to use FCL shipping.

What is FCL Shipping?

FCL stands for ‘Full Container Load’. This is a shipping method where an entire container is used to ship one consignee’s cargo.

How does FCL Shipping Work?

To understand how FCL shipping works, you need to know the following:

  1. Features of FCL shipping
  2. Documents required during FCL shipping
  3. FCL delivery services
  4. Incoterms used with FCL shipping
  5. Container sizes for FCL shipping

Features of FCL shipping

  1. A container is assigned to only one consignee
  2. After packaging of goods, the container is completely sealed and will only be opened by the customer once it has arrived at the destination.
  3. FCL shipping can be done via road, ocean, or rail.
  4. FCL is suitable for bulky shipments
  5. FCL shipping has a lower cost per cubic meter compared to other shipping methods.

Documents required during FCL shipping

Documents are required for FCL shipping to take place. The necessary documents include:

1. Bill of Lading (BOL). This is a very important document that is issued to the shipper by the carrier. It should be signed by the supplier, the carrier, and the shipper. The bill of lading contains the following details:

  • The type of goods being shipped
  • The number of goods
  • The destination of the goods
  • The name and address of the recipient
  • The terms of sale

2. Commercial Invoice. This is also a very important document required during customs clearance. The document is issued to the shipper and is used to determine the value of the goods and the shipping information. It contains the following:

  • Supplier’s details
  • Buyer’s details
  • Names of the port of loading and the destination port
  • Terms of payment

3. Packing list. This is a list of what is contained in the shipment. It has the following details:

  • The description of the goods
  • The quantity of the goods
  • The type of packaging used
  • The number of packages
  • The carrier’s name
  • The shipping date

4. Bill of export (shipping bill). This is a document filed at the port of loading. It contains the following:

  • Details of the goods being exported
  • Name of the vessel
  • Exporter’s details
  • Name of the port of loading
  • Name of the destination country

5. Bill of entry. For the goods to be allowed into the destination country, a bill of entry is filed either by custom clearance agents or the importer. The bill of entry contains:

  • Importer’s details
  • Exporter’s details
  • Import license number
  • Name of the destination port
  • Description of goods
  • Value of goods
  • Rate of import duty

FCL delivery services

FCL shipping is a port-to-port service but an importer can request the following services:

  • Door-to-door
  • Door-to-port
  • Port-to-door

Incoterms used with FCL Shipping

The common incoterms used with FCL shipments include:

  1. EXW (Ex Works). With this term, the buyer bears the risk during the whole shipping process. The supplier is only in charge of making the goods available for shipping.
  2. FOB (Freight on Board). The seller bears all the costs until the goods reach the port of origin, where the buyer takes over. FOB is said to be flexible since the buyer decides on the shipping route and time.
  3. CIF (Cost, insurance, freight). The seller bears all the risks from the time goods are dispatched until they reach the destination port of the buyer. The seller is also responsible for providing insurance.
  4. DAP (Delivery At Place).The buyer names a location and until the goods reach that specific location, the seller bears all the risks. It is at the named location that the risk shifts from the seller to the buyer. The buyer is in charge of customs clearance.
  5. FCA (Free Carrier). The seller is in charge of customs clearance and delivery of goods to the buyer. Just like DAP, the buyer specifies a place where the goods will be delivered.

Container sizes for FCL shipping

There are different types and sizes of containers that you can choose to use during FCL shipping. The most commonly used containers are the dry containers which include:

  1. 20ft Container. It has a capacity of 33.2 cubic meters and can accommodate 9-10 standard pallets or 11 Euro pallets.
  2. 40ft Container. It has a capacity of 67.7 cubic meters. It can accommodate 23-24 Euro pallets or 20-21 standard pallets.
  3. 8ft container. This is the smallest container size, with a capacity of 9.95 cubic meters. It has a maximum gross weight of 6000 kilograms and its tare weight is 950 kilograms.
  4. 10ft container. It has a capacity of 15.95 cubic meters, a maximum gross weight of 10000 kilograms, and its tare weight is 1000 kilograms.
  5. 40HC container. This is a 40ft container with a higher capacity to accommodate goods with taller heights. It has a capacity of 76.4 cubic meters, a maximum gross weight of 30480 kilograms, and its tare weight is 3660 kilograms.
  6. 53ft container. This is the largest container size. It weighs 5020 when empty and 25460 when fully loaded.
  7. 45HC container. It has a capacity of 86 cubic meters, a tare weight of 4870 kilograms, and a maximum gross weight of 32475 kilograms.

Dry containers are not temperature sensitive, therefore, they cannot be used to ship perishable goods. Fortunately, there are special containers with special features. Some of the special shipping containers include:

  1. Reefer containers. These are containers that have regulated temperature hence suitable for shipping temperature-sensitive goods such as fruits and vegetables.
  2. OOG (Out Of Gauge) containers. These containers are used to ship items with weird shapes. Examples of OOG containers are flat rack and open-top containers.

Why use FCL Shipping

FCL shipping is the most suitable shipping method for bulky and heavy goods. Of all shipping options, FCL shipping stands out due to the following reasons:

1. Cost-effectiveness

It is well known that ocean freight is the cheapest shipping method. When using ocean freight, a shipper can either use LCL or FCL. For bulky goods, FCL is the cheapest shipping method available. Compared to LCL, shipping with FCL means a lower cost per cubic meter (CBM). Shipping goods in bulk is, therefore, cheaper compared to shipping small amounts of goods. If a shipper has various consignments, consolidating them into one FCL shipment will be less costly.

2. Safe and secure shipping

There are always security and safety issues when shipping goods. Some of the common issues include:

  • Damage of goods
  • Stolen goods
  • Lost items

These problems mostly occur when many people handle your goods like in LCL where container space is shared amongst several shippers.

With FCL, the safety of the goods is guaranteed since a container belongs to only one shipper. This means that very few people handle the goods.

Also, the nature of some goods requires less handling. To ship such goods, FCL is the best option.

3. Faster delivery of goods

FCL is undoubtedly the faster ocean freight shipping option. Goods will be delivered 4-7 days earlier than LCL. The following are reasons why FCL shipping is faster than LCL.

  1. There is no consolidation and deconsolidation of goods.
  2. There is no time spent waiting for goods from other shippers.
  3. Shipping is direct; from the supplier to the importer.
  4. The process for FCL shipping is quite simple. There are fewer documents required compared to LCL. Also, the process is generally shorter.

4. Goods can be easily tracked

The ability to track goods with real-time updates has been of great advantage to the shippers.

5. Goods will arrive together at the same time

In the case where a shipper has several goods which have been shipped as one consignment, the goods will definitely arrive together since they are shipped as one.

The Pros and Cons of FCL Shipping

Every shipping method has advantages and disadvantages, and FCL shipping is no exception.


FCL and LCL are ocean freight shipping options hence they are not very different from each other. The main difference between the two is that in LCL, shipping space is shared between many shippers while in FCL, the whole container belongs to only one shipper. LCL is mainly used to ship cargo that is not large enough to fill a container.

Choosing whether to use FCL or LCL can be hectic sometimes. It is, therefore, important to compare the two options and choose the one that is most suitable for your goods.

Weighing between FCL and LCL involves looking at the pros and cons of each method.

Advantages and Benefits


  • It can be used to ship goods of high volume and weight.
  • Transit time is shorter compared to LCL.
  • It is the most cost-effective shipping method for bulky goods.
  • It is more suitable for shipping delicate goods.
  • There is reduced damage, pilferage, and loss of goods.


  • It is more cost-effective when shipping goods that are light.
  • It is more flexible compared to FCL.
  • It is the better option for small businesses.
  • It is easier to get shipping space in LCL than to find an empty container to ship goods.
  • Disadvantages and drawbacks


  • FCL offers fewer delivery options.
  • It is only limited to shipping large cargo.
  • It is less flexible.


  • Goods are more prone to damage, pilferage, and loss.
  • The shipping process is more complicated.
  • It is more costly.
  • Transit time is longer than in FCL.

FCL vs. Air

FCL shipping is very different from air shipping. The difference is in terms of transit times, shipping costs, and cargo size.

Air shipping is the fastest shipping method. With air shipping, a shipper can decide to use either air express or air freight. Choosing air express means that goods will be delivered within 1 to 3 days. The transit time for air freight can range from 4 to 7 days. The transit times actually vary depending on the distance between the origin and the destination of goods. FCL on the other hand is slow compared to air shipping. The transit time ranges from 15 to 60 days.

FCL shipping is used for goods with high volume and weight. These are goods that weigh more than 500 kilograms or have a volume of more than 15 cubic meters. Air shipping is used for very light goods. Shipping of goods that weigh less than 150 kilograms is done via air express. Air freight is used to ship goods weighing less than 500 kilograms. The fact that FCL deals with the shipping of heavy goods actually contributes to its slower shipping speed.

In terms of shipping costs, air shipping is the most expensive shipping method while FCL is the cheapest. Air shipping is very expensive since the delivery of goods is done within a very short period. In shipping, the faster the delivery, the costlier the shipping method.

When deciding between FCL and air shipping, you have to compare the pros and cons of both shipping methods.

Advantages and Benefits


  • FCL is used to ship goods that have a higher volume and weight compared to air shipping.
  • FCL is the most cost-effective shipping method.
  • FCL has fewer restrictions when shipping hazardous goods.


  • Transit time is shorter
  • The most suitable shipping method for light goods
  • It is safer compared to FCL

Disadvantages and Drawbacks


  • It is slower compared to air shipping
  • Goods are less secure compared to air shipping


  • It is very costly
  • It is only limited to shipping light goods
  • It has more restrictions when it comes to shipping hazardous goods

Difference between FCL and LCL

FCL and LCL have differences based on the following aspects:

1. Container shipping space

The aspect of container shipping space is what actually brings the difference between LCL and FCL. In LCL, a container is shared between several shippers. In FCL, an entire container belongs solely to one shipper.

2. Volume of goods

Shippers use LCL when they have goods that are not large enough to fill a container. LCL is meant for goods with less volume. FCL, on the other hand, is meant for goods that are large enough to fill a container. The container can be 20ft, 40ft, 40HC, etc.

3. Shipping costs

In LCL, the shipper only pays for the space that their goods occupy, while in FCL, the shipper pays for the entire container. For goods that are not very heavy, LCL is the cheaper option. For heavy goods, FCL is the cheaper option. Shipping goods that occupy a larger volume with FCL means that the cost per cubic meter is lower compared to using LCL.

4. Delivery speed

FCL shipping is faster compared to LCL shipping. For shipping urgent goods, FCL is the better option because the goods will be delivered early. The reasons for longer transit time in LCL are:

  1. A lot of time is taken during the consolidation and deconsolidation of goods
  2. You have to wait for the goods of other shippers to arrive at the port and be loaded into the container before transit.
  3. LCL shipping procedure is more complicated and takes more time compared to FCL shipping.

4. Flexibility

LCL shipping is more flexible than FCL shipping. There are more delivery options for LCL making it more flexible. Also, if a shipper has different cargo being delivered to different ports, LCL allows you to split our shipments. In addition, sending goods to Amazon FBA warehouses with LCL is easier.

5. Safety of goods

Shipments are safer when they are not handled often or when they are handled by a few people. With LCL, the goods are handled more than with FCL. This increases the chances of the goods getting damaged, stolen, or lost. Since there is no sharing of container space in FCL, the handling of goods is minimal hence cargo is safer. FCL is therefore more suitable for the shipping of fragile goods.

6. Availability

Shippers may experience shortages in shipping containers. They may face a hard time trying to find empty containers to ship their goods with. Some of the reasons for the shortage of containers include the increase in demand, port congestion, and the decrease in the number of operational shipping vessels.

It is harder to get an empty container than to find shipping space in a container. LCL shipping is, therefore, more available than FCL shipping.

Who Should Use FCL?

From the features of FCL, you can get to know whether FCL is suitable for your goods or not. FCL should be used by shippers with goods that weigh more than 15 cubic meters. For goods that weigh less, you can consider using LCL, and for very light goods, air freight and air express are the most suitable shipping methods.

Shippers with delicate goods should also consider using FCL. With FCL, the safety of such goods is guaranteed since there is not much handling like in LCL. The goods are likely to arrive with no damage. This is not to say that FCL shipping guarantees 100% safety of goods. It is only safer compared to LCL shipping. Air freight is actually safer than FCL.

For importers who want to cut down on shipping costs, FCL is the best option. FCL is cheaper compared to other shipping options as long as you are shipping in bulk. As a shipper, you will be able to benefit from the economies of scale by using FCL.

At times, an importer may be looking for a shipping method that will guarantee fast delivery. Generally, ocean freight is not the fastest shipping method but FCL is the faster ocean freight shipping option. So, if you have decided to use ocean freight and you want the goods to be delivered fast, FCL is the shipping option to go for.

When to Book FCL Shipment

You should consider booking an FCL shipment if:

1. You are shipping goods that are heavy and bulky. These are goods that have a volume of more than 14 cubic meters. In other terms, goods that occupy more than 10 standard pallets.

2. When you require the goods urgently. FCL shipments are delivered earlier than LCL shipments. This is because there is no consolidation and deconsolidation of goods hence time is saved. Also, there is no time wasted in waiting for the shipments if of other shipments before freight transit.

3. You want to cut down on shipping costs. As stated earlier, FCL has a lower cost per cubic meter, therefore it is very suitable for shipping heavy goods. With FCL, you can also maximize the utilization of the container space to ship more goods. This will result in cheaper rates.

If you have decided to ship your goods via FCL, you should book the shipment 14 days before the goods are ready.

What Goods are not allowed by FCL?

The following is a list of goods that are prohibited in FCL.

  • Live animals
  • Plants
  • Perishable goods (fruits, vegetables)
  • Inflammable cargo
  • Medicines
  • Fine art
  • Perfumes
  • Cleaning products
  • Lithium Batteries
  • Liquid
  • Powder
  • Magnet
  • Tobacco
  • Drugs
  • Weapons
  • Flammable products

Certain countries also have their own restrictions. Some countries have restrictions on the maritime shipping of cars. These countries include:

  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Brazil
  • Uruguay
  • Colombia
  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • Bolivia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Saudi Arabia

Knowing if the goods you want to import are allowed in your country is very important.

For prohibited goods, you can obtain an import/export license to ship them.

How to Calculate FCL Shipping Costs

To calculate FCL shipping rates, there are several factors to consider. These factors are:

  1. Shipping distance. The distance between the port of loading and the delivery port affects freight cost. The longer the distance, the higher the shipping rates.
  2. Fuel prices. Shipping rates increase with an increase in fuel prices, and decrease with a decrease in fuel prices. This is because all shipping vessels use fuel. Also, the trucks for transporting goods from the factory to the port of loading and from the destination port to the final destination use fuel.
  3. Delivery speed. If you want your goods to be delivered fast, you have to be ready to pay more.
  4. Delivery service. FCL shipping rates will vary with the delivery service you choose (door to door, port to port, door to port, or port to door). Door-to-door service will definitely cost more than port-to-port service.
  5. Shipping season. During peak seasons, shipping prices are usually very high. It is advisable to avoid shipping during those seasons. Also, during holiday seasons, the demand for goods is usually very high hence the shipping prices go high. When shipping from China, some of the holidays to be aware of include the New Year’s Day (January 1), Chinese New Year (February 1), Qing Ming Festival (April 5), Labor Day (May 1), Dragon Boat Festival (June 3-5), Mid-Autumn Festival (September 10-12), and Golden Week (October 1-7)
  6. Container size and type. Different containers have different shipping rates. Special purpose containers, like reefer containers, are more expensive than dry containers because they have more features. 40ft containers are more expensive than 20ft containers due to the difference in their sizes.
  7. Condition of the container. You can decide to ship your goods using a new container or an old container. The prices will vary, with the new one costing more. Also, other conditions like damages, reduce the shipping cost of such a container.
  8. Trucking shortages and port congestion. Due to high demand, shippers may experience shortages in trucks and also port congestion. The two factors result in increased shipping rates.

Unlike LCL where the shipping cost is calculated based on the volume and weight of goods, FCL shipping cost is charged at a flat rate based on the factors above.

FCL shipping to Los Angeles from China costs an average of $13475 for a 20ft container, and $18500 for a 40ft container. To New York, it will cost $15000 for a 20ft container and $22000 for a 40ft container.

Shipping from China to Felixstowe, United Kingdom, costs $12000 for a 20ft container and $18000 for a 40ft container. To Bremerhaven, it will cost $11100 for a 20ft container and $18000 for a 40ft container.

FCL Shipment Procedure


The importer orders goods from a supplier and requests quotes. The quotes come in the form of a proforma invoice – a preliminary invoice that contains an estimate of how much the buyer will pay. The buyer will then approve the quotes and create a purchase order. A purchase order is an official document that is given to the supplier by the buyer to show that the buyer is committed to paying the seller.

The importer will decide on the incoterms that will be used during the shipping process. The incoterm chosen will dictate who will be in charge of the costs and risks at certain stages of shipping. After deciding on the incoterm, the importer will get a freight forwarder. A freight forwarder will perform shipping operations on behalf of the importer. The freight forwarder should be reliable, trusted, and experienced.

To pay the supplier, the buyer will obtain a letter of credit. This document is offered by a bank and it assures the seller that the buyer will pay for the products in time. This is a payment mechanism that protects both the seller and the buyer. If the buyer fails to pay for the products, the bank that issued the document will be responsible for paying the supplier. If the buyer pays for the products but they are not delivered, the bank will pay the buyer with a standby letter of credit.

The supplier will then confirm the order and offer a commercial invoice to the importer. The commercial invoice will indicate the price and quantity of goods ordered and the incoterm to be used.


The importer will give the supplier’s contact details to the freight forwarder. The freight forwarder will liaise with the supplier and organize how the goods will be shipped. The supplier will also prepare the necessary documents such as the packing list, certificate of origin, shipper’s letter of instructions (SLI), manufacturer’s declaration, and dangerous goods form (if applicable).


The supplier books freight after all the documents are ready. Freight booking should be done early to avoid missing a spot due to high demand, especially during high seasons.


Once the goods are ready, they will be loaded onto the container and the container will be transported to the port by a truck. The carrier will then pick up the goods at the port and will be given the Bill of Lading to confirm that the goods have been received. A copy of the Bill of Lading will also be issued to the supplier and another one is sent to the importer. The goods will then undergo export clearance where all the documents are checked and reviewed.


Once the goods are cleared, the container will be shipped to the destination. The importer can track the goods with real-time updates.


Imported goods have to undergo clearance. There different are rules and regulations depending on the country the goods are being imported to. For prohibited goods, an import license must be presented for the goods to be allowed in the country. During this process, the importer also pays all the charges (taxes and tariffs) subjected to the goods.


Once the goods are cleared for import, transportation to the final destination will commence. The final destination can be where the importer is located or a location agreed upon. The importer will finally receive the goods and unload them from the container.

What is the FCL Container Shipping Cost from China?

Several countries import from China, hence it is the world’s biggest supplier of goods. The cost of FCL container shipping from China will depend on the factors discussed earlier: shipping distance, fuel prices, delivery speed, delivery service, shipping season, the type of container used, etc.

Based on the shipping distance and type of container, below are some of the rates for FCL shipping from China.

Shipping from China to the Canada


Shipping from China to the USA


Shipping from China to Europe


What is the Breakdown of the Shipping Cost?

As an importer, you will make payments that can be categorized into the following:

  1. Export charges
  2. Ocean freight charges
  3. Import Charges


  1. Export customs clearance. This is the fee that you pay when clearing your goods for shipping.
  2. Pick-up fee. This is the transportation fee from the factory to the port of loading.
  3. Documentation fee. The fee for the creation and processing of your shipping documents.
  4. Insurance fee. Insuring the goods by paying the insurance fee is important since the goods can get damaged or lost along the way.
  5. Port charges. These are fixed charges that you have to pay at the port of loading. They include goods dues, terminal handling charges, port storage charges, demurrage, detention, early arrival charge, late arrival charges, lift-on/lift-off, and cancellation/amendment charge.
  6. Telex release. This is the fee that lets the carrier release goods at a port different from the one specified in the bill of lading.


  1. Sea shipping. This is the fee for transporting the container from the port of loading to the destination port.
  2. Fuel surcharges. This is the fee levied by the carriers when there is an increase in fuel prices, to avoid incurring losses.
  3. EBS (Emergency Bunker Surcharges). If the fuel prices go higher than the carriers anticipated, they will impose EBS on the shippers to cover the rise.
  4. GRI (General Rate Increase). This is a shipping rate adjustment made on shipping routes at a certain time.
  5. War risks. This is an insurance fee imposed to cover damages that result from war.
  6. PSS (Peak Season Surcharges). This is a fee imposed on shippers during the high seasons.


  1. Import declaration fee. This is a fee that is paid for any good being imported to a certain country.
  2. BAF (Bunker Adjustment Factor). In case of an increase in fuel prices on certain routes, BAF is imposed to create a balance.
  3. CAF (Currency Adjustment Factor). In case of currency fluctuations during the shipping process, CAF is imposed.
  4. Agency fee. This is the fee charged by freight forwarders for their services.
  5. Delivery order. This is the fee paid to deliver goods to another person that is not the customer.
  6. Customs examination. If the shipment is to be examined, the importer pays the customs examination fee.

Which Port do I Need to Ship to?


  1. Port of Shanghai.
  2. Port of Shenzhen.
  3. Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan.
  4. Port of Hong Kong.
  5. Port of Guangzhou.
  6. Port of Qingdao.
  7. Port of Tianjin.
  8. Port of Dalian
  9. Port of Xiamen
  10. Port of Yingkou


  1. Port of Los Angeles, California
  2. Port of Long Beach, California
  3. Port of New York and New Jersey, New York
  4. Port of Savannah, Georgia
  5. The Northwest Seaport Alliance (Seattle and Tacoma), Washington
  6. Port Houston, Texas
  7. Port of Virginia, Virginia
  8. Port of Oakland, California
  9. South Carolina Ports, South Carolina
  10. Port Miami, Florida


  1. Port of Vancouver.
  2. Port of Montreal.
  3. Port of Prince Rupert.
  4. Port of Halifax.
  5. Port of Saint John.
  6. The Port of Saguenay
  7. The Port of Trois-Rivières
  8. The Port of Thunder
  9. The Port of Nanaimo
  10. The Port of Sept-Îles


  1. Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands.
  2. Port of Antwerp, Belgium.
  3. Port of Hamburg, Germany.
  4. Port of Valencia, Spain.
  5. Port of Piraeus, Greece.
  6. Port of Felixstowe, United Kingdom.
  7. Port of Le Havre, France.
  8. Port of Genoa, Italy.
  9. Port of Sines, Portugal.
  10. Port of Izmit, Turkey.


  1. Port of Brisbane
  2. Port of Sydney
  3. Port of Fremantle
  4. Port of Melbourne
  5. Port of Hedland
  6. Port of Dampier
  7. Port of Wellington
  8. Port of Darwin
  9. Port of Adelaide
  10. Port of Newcastle


  1. Port of Tokyo.
  2. Kobe Port.
  3. Port of Nagoya.
  4. Port of Osaka.
  5. Port of Yokohama.
  6. Otaru Port
  7. Port of Hakata
  8. Port of Kawasaki
  9. Port of Shimonoseki
  10. Port of Maizuru

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