Shipping by Air vs Sea: Choosing a Shipping Method

Choosing whether to utilise air freight or sea freight in transporting your cargo is not an easy task. This choice is influenced by the urgency or the budget of your shipment. Below are some helpful factors to consider which shipping method is best suited for your shipment:

1. Speed of Transport — The fastest way to transport your shipment is by air. Most paperwork is completed by the freight service company on your behalf, also making it convenient, but this service comes with a higher price compared to sea freight. The likelihood of delayed flights has less impact since flights run daily between major cities throughout the world. 
Sea freight has weekly schedules and when delays happens they could be a significant number of days or weeks. Worst case your shipment could be delayed for 1-2 months, but if there’s no urgency in the arrival of the shipment sea freight is still a good option.

Cost of Transport Generally air freight costs are higher than sea freight but there are circumstances that this is not true. For example, using air freight for less container loads (LCL) is cheaper than sea freight while Sea freight is cheaper for heavier cargo and full container load (FCL).
3. Additional Fees — Custom fees are unavoidable whether you choose to ship via sea or air. Although sea freight is generally cheaper, warehouse fees may cost higher at sea ports than at airports. Taxes charged by customs can be expensive when they’re calculated as a percentage of the value of your shipment. You may want to research the legislation of your destination country in regard to taxes on items shipped by air vs sea. 
4. Clearance Times — Airports operate with great speed and efficiency and aircraft delays are costly, so delays in the
movement of goods are avoided. Airport customs work faster than sea port customs which means your goods will be cleared and delivered within days of hitting the ground.
5. Goods Handling — If you’re moving fragile items you’re best packing them yourself to avoid damages. When goods are packed into an intermodal shipping container you can load and unload the items yourself. When sending items by air you need to put your trust into airline baggage handlers. Shipping by sea allows you to add extra protective layers to your goods since you’re generally not limited by weight. Shipping containers are water tight, but if you were shipping perishable goods the extra time needed for sea transport may not be worth damage to your goods from temperatures fluctuations or humidity.
6. Keep The Packaging — If you choose to buy a shipping container, then you use it to ship your goods by cargo ship you can keep the empty container(s) when your shipment is completed. You’ll need to have your container inspected and certified by a qualified surveyor before you load it. The surveyor will check the structural integrity of the unit, add a new ACEP sticker and issue you with a certificate.

7. Environmentally friendly Sea freight is a more environmentally friendly choice than air freight because carbon dioxide emissions are higher in air freight. Airports on the other hand may be closer to your point of delivery when compared to a shipping port, so if a truck was utilised to transport your goods hundreds of Miles from the sea port there may be no savings in emissions.

So, air freight or sea freight? The decision is ultimately yours. It will depend on the most pressing factor that needs to be addressed by your shipment.


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