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Container Service Types

Container Service Types

If you look at a bill of lading, in some of them you would see the terms FCL/FCL or LCL/FCL etc..

What do they mean..??

FCL : Full Container Load – this is when the full container is used by a single customer for his cargo..

Container Service Type FCL containers are usually packed and unpacked by the client at his premises at the origin and destination..

The client takes responsibility, liability for the packing and condition of the cargo packed in the FCL container..

LCL : Less than Container Load – this is when the same container is used for cargoes belonging to multiple shippers and consignees..

The clients deliver their cargo to the lines packing station (CFS – Container Freight Station) and the line then packs the delivered cargo on behalf of the client..

LCL CargoIn the case of LCL containers, the shipping line takes responsibility and liability for the packing, condition and delivering of the cargo..

But the shipping lines do not offer LCL services in all countries..

For example in South Africa – there is no concept of LCL containers and LCL shipments are handled by Groupage operators..

GROUPAGE : Similar to LCL with the only difference that these containers, cargo packing etc are controlled by a Groupage operator instead of the shipping lines in the case of LCL containers..

The Groupage operator books the container with the shipping line as their cargo depending on how much cargo they have (20′ or 40′)..Groupage Operator

Once the cargo is packed, they issue their own House Bills to their clients and collect the Master Bill of lading from the shipping line.. Example : CFR Freight

An additional aspect to consider here is that sometimes these service types are considered as Terms of Shipment in containerised shipments :

  • FCL/FCL – One shipper => One consignee
  • FCL/LCL – One shipper => Multiple consignees
  • LCL/FCL – Multiple shippers => One consignee
  • LCL/LCL – Multiple shippers => Multiple consignees

These terms indicate how the containers have been packed as..

There are some relatives to these above terms shown below which are used as “Delivery Terms” to indicate where the responsibility of the carrier or customer starts/ceases..

  • CY/CY – Container Yard/Container Yard
  • CY/CFS – Container Yard/Container Freight Station
  • CFS/CY – Container Freight Station/Container Yard
  • CFS/CFS – Container Freight Station/Container Freight Station

Have you seen or heard of any other service type or deliver term in containerised shipment..?? Do share if you have..

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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..



  2. Dear Sir

    Thank you very much, appreciate your commendable information. you are welcome if you want to work with Africa’s leading carrier Ethiopian Airlines.


  3. Dear Sir,

    Actually we have shipped 3×40′ HC(1 shipper & 1 consignee), out of which one container contains few packages of sales promotional items. The shipper requires a separate BL for this sales promotional items. What is the package type that has to be mentioned in BL of sales promotion items & package type in the other BL.

  4. Hi Hariesh,

    One query here in case of LCL/FCL and FCL/LCL service given by carrier and not groupage.

    Let us take by example

    If a shipper A wants to send a LCL cargo to consignees B and C to same destination D, If total cargo of B and C is equivalent to one FCL how will the carrier issue BL(s) to shipper would it be two BLs with FCL/LCL as container service type or one. In case of groupage this would have covering Master BL to show that both are travelling togather, what will be the covering document for the Line BL(s) that carrier issues in case of FCL/LCL service.

    Thanks in advance

    Dewang Bhansali

  5. Dear Sir,

    transport term : CFS/CFS, LCL/LCL

    When we are trying to release the shipment from the port, Customs agent informed that, the container is not opened which includes hazards. why this is happened? and what about the storage charges after 3 days free time. pls advise thanks

    • Hello Sidhique, you need to liaise with the groupage agent to see when they will open the box and when you can secure your cargo.. Only after the box has been opened and your cargo has been unpacked you should be liable for storage incase you don’t clear it in time..

    • Dear sir.

      ETA 24/2/15
      Submited the docs and approved declaration by customs on 26/02
      Released the shipment today 04/03
      We paid storage chrgs of 5 days according to doha port Tarif.
      Is this amount refundable? How the process? Pls advise

  6. dear mr. Hariesh Manaadiar,

    I could not understand the below 2. Can you please describe and post some image of bill of lading indicates this;

    FCL/LCL – One shipper => Multiple consignees
    LCL/FCL – Multiple shippers => One consignee

    susmita golam

    • Hi Nilesh, this depends on the customs in your country.. If your customs allows it, the shipping line will file MBL referring to your HBL(s) and then you can file your manifest with the various clients..

  7. Can the GROUPAGE container service type explain why an importer will prefer LCL even though cargo size is almost 20GP full? We have FOB terms with all our distributors and our Canadian distributor always stresses me out when they insist on LCL arrangement and I’m stuck with the ridiculous origin charges. I’m wondering if they are able to avoid similarly ridiculous destination charges at their end because of this GROUPAGE service or some other reason. Appreciate your insight and experience. Thanks!

    • CY/CY (Container Yard/Container Yard) is one of the main and predominant terms in the container trade.. As far as i know there is actually no equivalent to a Tackle/Tackle or Hook/Hook term in the container trade.. If you know or have heard of any such term, please do let me know..


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