The pros and cons of sea and air freight

The big moving day is almost here. However, you still have one more important decision to make: will you be using air freight or sea freight? Sometimes this decision is straightforward, yet when business needs and tight timelines collide, the choice may become far more challenging. Windmill Forwarding will gladly explain to you all the pros and cons of both shipping methods! 

The pros of sea freight

Sea freight is a method of transporting large quantities of goods via cargo ships. The cargo is packed into containers, which get loaded onto a vessel. From there the cargo will be shipped to the country of destination. Ocean shipping is the main transportation mode for global trade: it is estimated that around 90% of traded goods are carried over the waves. And that’s for good reason! Ocean shipping is around 4- to 5 times cheaper than air freight. The reason for this huge difference is related to a number of factors.

The main reason for this price difference is related to the amount of cargo that a vessel can hold: a standard inland vessel can transport 3500 tons of cargo. For bigger vessels this carrying capacity can go up to even 10.000 tons! An average cargo plane can only carry up to 250 tons of cargo, which is why it is more expensive than sea freight.

Additional costs can be saved through Windmill’s Groupage services. With groupage your goods are loaded into one container together with other shipments. Your goods can be transported separately in their own container, however, this is more expensive as it takes up more space. In the vast majority of cases, the container is not completely filled with your removal items. By means of groupage, costs are reduced and containers are filled more efficiently. 

Another pro of ocean shipping is that, compared to air freight, laws and regulation tend to be a lot more flexible. This means that almost any type of product is allowed to be shipped via sea. Air freight is a lot more regulated, heavily limiting what type of products are allowed to be shipped. 

The pros of air freight

Air freight has lots of pros for international moving. First of all, it is by far the quickest method of transportation. Compared to the long transit times of international sea freight, air freight offers a solution when time is of the essence. This makes air freight more suitable for transporting perishable, expensive or urgent goods. Moreover, air freight is considered to be the most reliable mode of transporting products. Airlines often have tight schedules, making departure and arrival times reliable. Additionally, tracking technology tends to work a lot better in the air than on the sea. This makes the chances of your goods getting lost considerably smaller. 

The cons of sea freight

Even though sea freight has tons of pros, there are some downsides that have to be mentioned. The most straightforward con is of course the speed: cargo ships are about 30 times slower than cargo airplanes. In addition, extreme weather conditions, delays at customs and port congestion are known to cause some hefty delays. 

The cons of air freight

Those who choose to transport their cargo by air should be prepared for a big investment. Air freight is estimated to be around 4-to 5 times more expensive than sea freight. Additionally, cargo ships can only carry up to 250 tons of goods. This is hardly comparable to an average sized inland vessel that can transport up to 3500 tons of cargo. 

Moreover, international air freight rules and regulations tend to be really strict. In general, there are more restrictions on products that are transported by air. For example flammable, corrosive, magnetic, and other types of chemical products are not allowed to be transported by air.

In short

Both transportation methods have pros and cons. We have summarized all things that need to be considered before choosing the right type of transport for your business. 

Pros sea freight:

  • Cheap
  • Suitable for large quantities of goods
  • Flexible laws and regulations

The pros of air freight:

  • Quick
  • Reliable

The cons of sea freight:

  • Slow

The cons of air freight:

  • Very expensive
  • Limited in quantity of volume
  • Strict laws and regulations

Whatever transport you choose will highly depend on your personal needs. Both methods have their pros and cons. Therefore, we advise you to evaluate when you want your goods to arrive, what your budget is and which transport method best suits your business needs.

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