Which is better - shipping by sea or by air?

While technology has transformed our way of living so much that we can connect to the other end of the world within seconds, we still need to rely on transportation for sending cargo. Freight transportation is among the most thriving industry, to which the internet is one of the many reasons. With online shopping opening up venues like never before, people now have the option to choose anything from anywhere in the world and have it shipped to their doorstep in a few days.

When we speak of shipping, we are not just referring to freight transport by ship. Shipping could be on the road, on the rail or by air and also by sea. When we speak of international shipping, one has to choose between air and sea freight.

Airfreight and Ocean freight

As a consumer, you might be clear on what mode of shipping you prefer, the air being the fastest. However, for a shipper or a business owner, there are many factors to take into consideration. Let us take a brief look at the various factors that influence this decision.

There are many things that play a role in deciding on the best way for freights, namely the size of the shipment, the weight, the type of shipment, and the speed at which it has to be delivered. There is, of course, the cost that plays a huge role in making a decision. Let us take a look at these factors in detail now.

  • Delivery speed

As we speak of speed, it is quite evident that the freight by air would be a faster option than the freight by sea. This is more so in the case of cargo, where every minute costs money, and you want the shipment to be delivered at the earliest, which is the case for most businesses. However, we are not in ancient times anymore. Even the speed of ships has considerably increased over time. But it can never compare to the speed of an aircraft. It depends on the route that you want the goods to take and the place it has to be delivered.

  • Size of the shipment

There is more space when it comes to ocean freight. The containers are huge that a single container can hold nearly 10000 beer bottles. So if you are looking for massive shipments, ocean freight could be the best solution than air shipping. Also, there are stricter regulations for hazardous materials over air freight in comparison to shipping by sea.

  • Expenses

This is among the most important and deciding factor to consider whether you are an individual or a business person. When you enquire, you will find that ocean freight is cheaper than air freight. But it need not be the case all the time. When we speak large shipments, then the ocean freight will work out to be cheaper than air freight. But with smaller shipments, you will find that there is not much difference in the pricing between air and sea.

Apart from the shipment charges, there are also the charges you would incur on customs, which will vary based on the destination. There are also the warehouse charges which have to be taken into consideration. And in case of delays for sea shipping, there might be demurrage costs you have to bear.

  • Market accessibility

One of the biggest advantages of sea freight is the easy accessibility to the markets. The intermodal shippers allow for easy transportation of the goods to the inland markets after unloading. However, in the case of receiving goods, when the shipment is smaller, it is easier to access the goods at an airport than at a seaport.

The pros and cons

If you are considering speed, then air freight might be a viable option. But again, the sea routes have fairly improved over the years to offer a better delivery time. As for larger shipments, sea shipping definitely rules the industry, but when it comes to smaller cargo, the air is still more reliable.

When it comes to cost, you have to include all the expenses, from transportation to the air or seaport, the customs duties, other expenses you might incur to arrive at the final expense.

There are delays in both freight transportation. When you are looking for goods to reach within a specific time, air freight is more convenient.

There is also an environmental impact that is to be considered. It is true that air freight leaves a much larger carbon footprint than sea freight. On the other hand, sea shipping also has its own downside, with oil spills polluting the ocean and marine life.

There are pros and cons to both types of freight. When you are making a decision on the right mode of freight, you have to consider all these factors together to make a decision. It also depends on what you value the most among these factors that will drive your final decision. It is of course of importance that you choose the right shipper to get your goods delivered to the destination with minimal hassle.