The differences between air freight and ocean freight services might appear to be seemingly obvious, but many shippers might not be aware of all the pros and cons of each option. Finding our about the benefits and drawbacks of different international shipping services can make choosing the right service for your next shipment much easier.
While air freight is faster and generally more reliable than sea freight, it is also much more expensive. For example, a load that costs $200 to transport via cargo ship can cost over £1000 via airpost services. The environmental impact of air cargo is also a big drawback for many businesses that need to reduce their carbon footprint to avoid emissions taxes.
The price of an air freight shipment is determined by the weight and dimensions of a parcel. Consequently, air services are best for light, compact items.
While customs holdups are less common with air freight services, it’s important to know that airlines impose stricter regulations on the shipment of hazardous materials. Different airlines have different prohibited item lists, as prohibited items are governed by national laws and airline regulations. Universally prohibited items include gases, flammables (eg. Perfume), magnetic substances, corrosive items, oxidizers, biochemical products and items that pose public health risks, such as untanned hides.
The main benefit of sea freight services is that they offer greater load capacities and provide great value for money. A single shipment container can carry 10,000 beer bottles. The carbon footprint of ocean freight is much better than air freight. And, with international bodies putting pressure on countries to take responsibility for environmental damage, more corporations and individuals are committing to emission reduction practices to avoid carbon taxes. Ocean freight CO2 emissions are tiny compared to air freight CO2 emissions.
The downside of sea freight services is that they are much slower than air freight services and port holdups and international customs issues can cause delays. That said there are now some express forwarding services that can provide guaranteed delivery dates. Over the past decade there have been a lot of improvements to ocean tracking services, which have made the sea fright market more competitive in terms of shipping times. Transit times from Europe to the East Coast of America, for example, can now take just 8 days with expedited ocean services. There are now many websites online that allow you to compare shipping rates and times, so you can find the cheapest or quickest routes.