International relocations often require meticulous planning, particularly for safely shipping a whole lot of household items, which is the most crucial part of this process. 

Most international relocations are done by transporting goods inside shipping containers – but which one should you choose? Should you book a whole container or share space on one? 

Let’s dig deeper.

Understanding shipment options for international relocations

Most international relocation companies offer two common shipment options depending on the volume of goods you want to transport, and your budget:

  • Full Container Load (FCL)
  • Shared Container Load (partial load). 

In the latter, there are two types: Less than Container load (LCL Load) and Groupage Shipments.

These are the most common nomenclatures, but you need to be aware that some international relocation companies may use slight variations of these words. 

Shipping container sizes

Before choosing containers, it helps to know the sizes available. Standard options include 20-foot, 40-foot, and 40-foot-high cube containers. 

Your international relocation provider will help you accurately calculate the volume of goods, but here are some general indications of what each will contain. 

20-foot container 

This is 5.898m (Length) by 2.352m (Width) by 2.393m (Height), with a capacity of 32.6m3 (cubic metres). This is generally good enough to accommodate everything you need in an 80 sqm (860 sqft) apartment (furniture, mattresses, kitchen appliances, even a motorbike and/or bicycle). If you may need at least half of the space of a 20-foot container, FCL is potentially the better and cheaper option than LCL, helping bring down your international move costs.  

40-foot container 

This is 12.025m (L) by 2.352m (W) by 2.393m (H), with a capacity of 67.6m3. This is large enough to fit all the items in a 100 sqm (1075 sqft) apartment, along with one or two motorbikes and/or bicycles, plus a midsized car. 

40-foot-high cube container 

This is 12.19m (L) by 2.44m (W) by 2.99m (H), with a capacity of 76m3. This is very rarely used as most of the shipping needs are usually covered wither by 20-foot or 40-foot containers. Only when the load is very high and exceeds the capacity of a 40-foot container will a 40-foot-high cube container be needed.  

Full (FCL) or partial (LCL) container service: What’s the difference?

Full-container-load or FCL is where you get an exclusive container to ship all your items. Less-than-container load or LCL (commonly referred to as a partial or shared container service) is one where your belongings are sent through a large shipping consolidator who regularly transports lots of goods to your destination. 

LCL is the more cost-effective way to transport goods, compared to FCL. However, LCL takes a couple of additional days compared to FCL to reach your destination. 

What are groupage shipments?

Groupage shipments are similar to LCL shipping, except that your items will be grouped along with the personal belongings of other individuals who are also relocating to the same destination, using the same international movers and packers.

So which one should you choose? 

Below are a couple of factors to consider when choosing between an FCL, LCL or Groupage shipment move:


  • If the volume of your household items is relatively less, then you will benefit by opting for LCL and reducing costs. 
  • Note: if you’re transporting large furniture, vehicles, pets, or rare and expensive items, FCL is your only choice. 


  • FCL is the fastest service because your sealed container will be transported directly to the destination port, where customs clearance is easier. 
  • LCL is comparatively slower but still manageable. 
  • With groupage shipments, delays are more likely due to customs clearance for all the items being transported. Even if you’ve done everything right, there may be a delay because someone else hasn’t filled out their paperwork correctly and their items are clubbed with yours. 


  • FCL tends to be the most expensive (but fastest delivery). 
  • LCL is cheaper than FCL but more than Groupage (a couple of days slower than FCL).
  • Groupage tends to be the cheapest (and longest for delivery).

So, based on how many items you’re transporting, how long you have for them to reach your destination, and your budget, you are now in a good position to understand what kind of container to go for when you make an international move. 

Have questions about shipping containers and how you can make the best choice? Please send us an email and our international relocations experts will help you out!