Guide to FCL shipping: Everything exporters need to know

Full Container Load (FCL) shipping is a method of transporting goods by sea for larger loads. Learn more about its process advantages, disadvantages and more.
FCL shipping
Shipping is an important aspect of an export-import business and understanding what’s the right mode of transportation helps exporters plan their business operations accordingly. While shipping, one can choose Less than Container Load (LCL) or Full Container Load (FCL).

What is an FCL shipment?

FCL refers to a shipment where a single container is reserved for one shipper’s use in international shipping. The cargo will not be mixed with other shippers’ goods (as done in LCL shipping). Due to this, ocean transportation is more secure and straightforward.

Advantages and disadvantages of FCL shipping


· It’s one of the quickest methods of transporting products after air freight.
· The cost is less than shipping via flight.
· For shipments with volume greater than 13 cubic metres, the price is lower than LCL.
· One-time loading and unloading leads to fast transit times.
· Cargo is safe while in transit because the container remains sealed.
· There is no chance of cross-contamination with any other products. Cotton clothing, for instance, may absorb odors from nearby spices or chemicals if stored in the same space. The use of FCL shipping prevents this.
· To export big, fragile (ceramics, chemicals), and valuable goods, FCL is beneficial.
· FCL uses temperature-controlled containers to transport perishable goods like fresh vegetables.


· More warehouse space implies more money spent on shipping.
· More time and human effort are needed to load and deliver large shipments.
· FCL is expensive for small shipments, but shippers sending fragile or valuable goods may decide the benefits are worth the expense.
· LCL is less volatile than interest rates.
· There is a good chance that availability will be low during busy seasons.
· FCL shipments are difficult to collect by importers due to time constraints.

Documents required for FCL shipping

Some of the documents required are:
· Consignment note/Seaway Bill of Lading
· Freight receipt (Ocean freight)
· Certificate of Origin
· Sales receipt
· Checklist for travel.
· Validation of Fumigation
· Validation of Inspection
· Insurance (Marine insurance)

The required paperwork may change according to product type and country of manufacture.

How does an FCL shipment work?

When compared to LCL shipping, the procedure for FCL transport is simpler:

Step 1:

Arrange for FCL cargo by contacting a logistics service provider in India. At this point, you will need to share all specifics regarding the shipment with the project freight forwarder. The provider will handle all aspects of delivery based on the specifications.

Step 2:

The freight forwarder prepares the shipment. The container carrying the exported products is then hauled to the port.

Step 3:

After the FCL shipment arrives at the port, it will continue to its final destination.

Step 4:

Upon arrival at the last port, cargo is removed from the ship and made available for pickup or delivery.

Cost of FCL shipments

There is a single rate for the entire container in FCL shipping, referred to as the bulk box rate. These are some of the common elements of an FCL quote:
· Fees associated with warehouse pickup
· Costs incurred by the originating terminal (for storage and machinery)
· Price of ocean freight
· Freight delivery to the target warehouse plus terminal handling costs

Other transportation needs of FCL shipments

FBA needs

Sending merchandise to an Amazon FBA fulfilment center requires planning to reduce shipping costs. Ship directly to international fulfillment centers at competitive prices. Book, pay and track shipments without any hassles from India to the world.

Labels and pallets

Amazon’s distribution centers accept shipping containers that meet their specifications. Review these requirements and label packages accordingly.

Customs clearance and bank guarantees

US-bound shipments need a customs bond. If you ship rarely, choose a single-entry bond. Your shipping volume may warrant an annual bond.

Taxes and duties

Shippers should consider customs and taxes because they can raise cargo costs.

Congested ports raise costs

Shipments to busy ports may incur a congestion surcharge. Ask your forwarder before choosing a port.

How to label and pack goods in FCL shipments?

It may seem a logical choice to go for LCL if the shipment is less than the volume of the container. Here are a few key differences between LCL and FCL to help you make a better decision:

For labelling:

Shipping containers must meet Amazon’s standards before they are accepted into their distribution centres. Firstly, you should understand these prerequisites and figure out how to label your package. When possible, labelling should be handled in the manufacturing facility.

For packing goods:

Stuffing at a Container Freight Station (CFS) is a common method used by Indian shippers. CFSs are located near ports and are used to load and unload empty containers. Before stuffing, a customs agent completes the cargo’s customs examination and clearance. One can select among door-to-door, door-to-port, port-to-door, and port-to-port options for FCL shipments.


Transit time is a major consideration. In LCL, once a freight forwarder has received enough cargo to fill the container, the products will be crammed inside. Delays in delivery to the final port may occur if many cargoes require stops at intermediate ports. If the cargo amount is either very large or very small, the decision between FCL and LCL becomes straightforward.

When to use FCL shipment?

Large, heavy shipments should be sent via FCL, whereas smaller, lighter shipments should be sent via LCL. However, fragile goods might also be considered FCL to avoid any loss or damage while shipping. When time is important, FCL is a better option.

Things to keep in mind while choosing FCL shipping

· Pre-book to save costs during busy seasons.
· The shipping container size and other requirements for long distance transport depend on the goods’ weight.
· Pack carefully and consider shipping handling.

Easy e-commerce exports with Amazon Global Selling

As an e-commerce exports program, Amazon Global Selling enables Indian sellers and MSMEs to take their products from India to international marketplaces across 200+ countries and territories. Without having to set up a physical store or warehouse abroad, Amazon’s simple registration process and hassle-free logistic support helps you reach global customers in a seamless manner.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does FCL shipping take?
Marine transport takes 20–45 days. Ocean shipment takes far longer than air shipping. Air transport delivers packages in days. Shippers should anticipate FCL shipments' long transit times.
What are the different sizes of FCL containers?
Some of the common sizes of FCL containers are 20 feet, 40 feet, and 45 feet.
Is FCL better than LCL?
While both have pros and cons, it is important to choose a shipping method as per the business requirement.
What weight can FCL hold?
A 20-foot container holds 33.08 CBM.
A 40-foot container holds 67 CBM.
A 40-foot high cube container holds 76.4 CBM.
Published on January 29, 2023.

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