Air vs Ocean: Which freight method to choose

  • November 7, 2017
  • Blog

For long distance or worldwide shipping, you have the choice between air and sea but how do you know which is the better choice for your needs? While there are a lot of factors which can influence your decision, ultimately there is only two that are considered. They are the budget and the time. Typically, you should strive to maintain a balance between the time constraints and the budget limitations. Nonetheless, it is a good idea to understand these factors in details.

The Price Factor

Cheap freight shipping is certainly a priority for any company with a supply chain. To that aim, many choose to work with 3PL providers like 20Cube. In the sphere of shipping, sea is often thought of as the cheaper option but this does not extend to all situations. You need to first understand how the costs are determined.

Air cargo carriers determine the cost on the basis of the shipment’s chargeable weight. Chargeable weight is calculated on the size and the weight of the cargo. It is possible for larger shipments to have a low weight and for heavier items to take up less space. As a result, both aspects are taken into the calculation of shipment costs.
One the other hand, sea freight charges are calculated on the basis of containers. When shipping by containers, you will have to choose whether you need a full container or less than it. In the latter case, your cargo can be consolidated with other freight, leading to lower costs. Known as LCL, charges in this case will be determined by the volume or space required by the cargo. In some cases, the weight might be considered as well.

As a result of these factors, sea freight can seem like the cheaper option. However, that is only applicable when you have bigger and heavier freight to be shipped. Once the size begins to decrease, the difference in costs of air and ocean shipments tend to decrease. After a point, air shipments can become the cheaper option.
Remember that the warehousing and storage costs at the port of destination must also be accounted for. These rates tend to vary among ports and countries.

The Speed Factor

Air shipments are certainly the fastest method for delivering your cargo. It is even possible to get same day air freight deliveries. As such, if your cargo needs to be delivered urgently, air freight is the only choice open to you. For certain businesses, the speed of the delivery compensates for the higher costs that might be incurred. Ocean freight can take weeks to be delivered.

The Environment Factor

The logistics industry has become increasingly concerned about its impact on the planet. In fact, all kinds of businesses around the world are focusing more on their environmental impact, as should you. If you want to be a greener company, you must think of the ecological impact of your freight. In this case, sea freight is the greener option due to the lower carbon footprint involved.

The fact is that both air and ocean freight has their own advantages. You need to understand your freight requirements. Do you want to save money? Do you want fast deliveries? Only then can you make the choice between air and ocean freight.