Air Freight vs. Ocean Freight

Logistics transport tactics are many, especially when loads are moved internationally. Domestically, trucking is common and best. Long distances may mean shipping across oceans. Should we ship by air or by sea? Which transportation method is best? Both shipping methods have advantages and drawbacks. For you, the specifications of the load are key, including volume, weight, and desired delivery date.

Speed Favors Air Freight

When comparing air freight vs. ocean freight, one of the first questions many shippers ask is, “Which one is faster?” but your real question is, “Which meets the customer’s expectation or requirements?” Air freight is by far the faster of the two options. Cargo ships can take several weeks to reach their destination, particularly if they need to make multiple stops along the way. There will be other shipments with differing destinations delivered along the way or just loaded and unloaded before your shipment. Ocean-going cargo vessels have enormous capacity, so your consignments will accompany many others. Customs clearance may also take longer, adding to delivery times.

Air freight, by comparison, usually can be delivered from same day to within a few days. Air shipment is the best choice for goods that are perishable or are needed quickly.

Cost is always a factor, air always costs more

A major difference between air freight and ocean freight is the price. While air freight is faster, you end up paying for that convenience. Do not pay for speed or convenience you do not need. Plus, the price is considerably higher for large shipments (volume) or weight. If your delivery need is flexible, save on shipping costs with ocean freight. For example, items might cost just under $200 to ship by sea and more than $1000 by air.

When comparing air freight vs. ocean freight, perhaps the biggest difference is in the average size of the shipment. Sea freight can handle much larger shipments compared to air freight. Ocean shipping can handle very heavy loads. Ocean has fewer space restrictions, so is better if the load is irregularly shaped. This makes sea the preferred freight method for shipping larger, heavier goods, such as furniture, vehicles, appliances, raw materials, etc.

Safety: Airline Safety Restrictions Are Tight

When comparing air freight vs. ocean freight, safety is another consideration. Air freight has many more regulations and carrier restrictions on the items permitted. Hazardous goods and materials, such as hazardous chemicals, pressurized gases, magnetized metals, and flammable materials are not permitted on planes. Potentially hazardous goods are more likely permitted via ocean freight because of fewer safety constraints.

Handling: Air Carriers May Take More Care

If you ship fragile goods, an air freight carrier may pack goods more securely to avoid shifting, and this may avoid damage.

Environmental: Ocean Has Less Environmental Impact

Finally, when comparing air freight vs. ocean freight, ocean freight is widely considered the more environmentally friendly. With its larger capacity and more gradual speed, ocean freight has a smaller carbon footprint than air freight, especially as you factor in weight and volume. As companies strive for environmental corporate goals, expect corporations to measure and reduce environmental impact with best practices; so, ocean freight is the way to go.

Nexterus Finds the Optimal Freight Method for You

Choosing the best method to ship your goods and materials can be a complicated balancing act, deciding where best to focus on cost savings, speed, shipment size, safety, and even environmental impact. We here at Nexterus can find the best shipping method for your supply chain. We are a logistics service provider with a range of freight shipment and consolidation solutions. Whether air, ocean, barge, or trucking, we have the industry connections to move your goods where needed and on time across the country or across the globe. Find out more about what we can do for your company’s logistics, and submit your interest!

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