Consolidation & De-consolidation
The freight charge is either determined by the volumetric nature and density of the cargo. A crate of soft cotton will be charged on the size, whereas a pallet of safes would likely be charged on the weight.
Additionally with LCL, freight travels on a CFS (Container Freight Station) to CFS lane as opposed to Port/Rail to Port/Rail lane, giving many more inland destination options. This can result in shorter, less costly inland moves than shipping FCL where you are restricted to major rail ramps.
The freight is unloaded from the container, segregated, and awaits pickup upon arrival at the destination CFS. With LCL, the shipper gets an an extra few days of free time and reduces the chances of accruing demurrage and detention charges. The 15 CBM estimate marks the cutoff for LCL.
For a shipper trying to minimize the cost per unit to ship your goods, awareness of this cutoff point is important to achieving economies of scale.
FCL rates react very quickly to market changes, lowering rapidly when ships are not full and spiking when capacity gets tight. In contrast, LCL rates tend to be more stable. For example, a 20’ full container rate at the beginning of the month can decrease or increase by mid-month depending on what market forces are present at the time. The LCL per CBM rate will likely not be affected by the FCL’s price fluctuation, or if it is, it will take the consolidator time to apply the changes.
LCL cargo is physically handled on average 3-4 times more than the same shipment moving as a single FCL due to the fact that it needs to be consolidated at origin and deconsolidated at destination. Additional handling can sometimes result in damages or loss.
FCL can be considered, If security and minimal handling are important, even for a smaller shipment. Unlike LCL with an FCL move, the same shipment gets loaded into the container at the supplier’s door, sealed, and does not get opened again until it reaches the consignee’s door. The origin and destination handling will also affect your transit time. You can always expect at least 5-8 additional days with an LCL shipment (sometimes more). Rather than going directly to the port in the container, LCL freight is dropped at the CFS where it waits in a 5-7 day window for the other freight it will be loaded with before making it to the port. Once it gets to the destination, instead of being picked up from the port and directly delivered to your door, it must first make a stop at the CFS warehouse to be unloaded.