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HomeGuest ArticleOcean Freight Vs Air Freight

Ocean Freight Vs Air Freight

Ocean Freight Vs Air Freight – Pros and Cons – is the title of this guest post by John Collings..

There are numerous ways in which retailers (or any other type of seller) can deliver a product that is being sold to customers, if the distance is not so big. However, if the product has to be delivered to another continent, then you are basically left with only two choices, and that is going for either the ocean freight (transport the goods by ship) or the air freight (transport the goods by plane). These two options differ in many ways and choosing between them should depend on the situation. In order to help you with choosing between the two, here is a list of pros and cons of each of the options.

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Air freight – Pros


The key argument for sending goods via a plane has always been the speed of delivery, in which category the air freight takes the cake in front of any other means of transport. Simply, humans have yet to invent something that transports goods faster than an airplane. This is why this mode of transport is always used in situation where speed is of the essence. Some goods require that they reach the destination as fast as possible, while, in other cases, the customers are impatient. This, however, does not come without a price, but, more on that later.


Another key point is that with air freight, your goods will have the least risk of getting damaged or destroyed in any way. Sure, there is always the risk that the plane will crash, but, those risks are absolutely minimal. When it comes to handling, storing and securing your package, airport regulations take very good care of that. There are strict rules that have to be followed when handling goods and, as was already said, due to the speed of transport, the items which can expire are far more less likely to do so.

Air freight – Cons


Surely you must have realized by now that taking the fastest and the safest mode of freight does not come without a price. This is also the most expensive type of delivery that you can choose. The speed and safety are important, but any seller has to be careful not to overextend their budget, because then there is no profit (which has no point when someone is trying to sell something). Some retailers decide to pass these costs to the customer, but that only happens when they really want to have the goods delivered fast. Either way, any merchant should only choose this if speed and safety are of vital importance.


This is one of the main reasons why air freight has not yet blown away any competition that it might have in the transport market (it is even one of the reasons why it is so expensive). Since the airplane’s cargo space is significantly smaller than that of a cargo ship, load volumes for this type of transport is much smaller, making it harder to pull the same numbers as the ocean freight, for example. So, every place on the plane is precious and worth a lot of money. For example, when the new iPad was launched, air freight prices increased by 20%, all because it could not service such a demand.

Ocean freight – Pros


While the air freight is the most expensive in this game, ocean fright takes the exactly opposite side on the matter of money required. This is one of the cheapest ways to transport goods from one place to another. This is why so many companies opt for it. It is not hard to find a place on a cargo ship to store things and, more significantly, the cost of that ship reaching its destination is shared by a lot of other cargo that is on the same ship. So, when time of delivery is not an issue, this is the option that you should be going for, simply because it will save you a lot of money.


As I said above, this is not the category that really suits airplanes. However, cargo ships can carry really massive amounts of cargo. The best thing is that it makes no difference as to what shape or size the things that need to be transported are. Ships can carry any kind of equipment, heavy machinery, cars or whatever other large product you can name. Also, they can store a lot of them at once, which means that competitive rates are high and they can service large demands with ease. This would be a great option if you have a great amount of goods that need to be shipped together.

Ocean freight – Cons


Any retailer will tell you that you have to make sure that the customer is satisfied. One of the factors which contribute to the customer satisfaction is how reliable the retailer is with delivery. Simply, if a customer orders something, he (or she) expects that it will arrive at the specified date. However, using ocean freight as a mode of transport means that you will have to sacrifice some of that satisfaction. You cannot rely on ships, because they run on weekly schedules and the risks of something going wrong (and the shipment getting delayed) are high. While this does not mean that the goods will get damaged, the customer satisfaction will surely drop if he (or she) has to suffer a delay in delivery.


Ships are incredibly slow when compared to airplanes. They have a lot of distance to cover and it takes them quite a while to do so. While an airplane may deliver the goods in a day or two, a freighter will usually take a month (should there be no delays). Some will say that the technology is advancing and that some shipping companies now offer to deliver the goods in as much as 10 days, but this is still well below the par set by the airplane.

The most important thing to remember about choosing between these modes of inter-continental transport is that everything depends on the situation. When you have to choose speed over cost, feel free to do so, but remember that it should only be in cases where you will make a profit. However, if there is no need to hurry, then you can easily choose ocean freight, as it will deliver the goods at a much lesser cost.

 Author Bio

John Collings is a full time employee with International Freight Forwarding Company who specialize in international Airfreight/Sea freight, Customs Clearance & Special Transport Projects Allworld Logisticsas a export manager.

If you are interested in posting a guest article on this blog, please email me..

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  1. Airfreight is quicker, safer, and additional reliable than ocean freight, however, it is also dearer – a $195 ocean cargo will price $1,000 by air. Currently, air freight costs square measure rather more dearly-won than traditional, thanks to 2 factors: 1st, restrictions on traveler transport have restricted area. … to boot, ocean freight costs square measure way less volatile than air, and new facilitated ocean freight services might even supply quicker transit times.

  2. Great post explaining pros and cons of air and ocean freight. Transporting goods, whether by air or sea, requires fuel, therefore the choice between air or sea freight is critical and it is important to weigh factors such as cost, delay and security of goods. The choice between these two normally depends on shipment’s size, contents, weight and how fast you need to deliver your goods. Air freight is safer, faster and more reliable than ocean freight, but it is also more expensive. Ocean freight offers more capacity and value. A freight forwarder from China to USA or Europe weigh several factors to decide which freight is optimum.

  3. This information is very meaningful and magnificent, Which you have shared here about the ocean and air freight services. After reading your article I got very much information about the ocean and air freight services and it very useful for us.

  4. You have shared a nice article here about the freight services. Your article is very informative and very nicely describes the difference between ocean freight Vs air freight. I would like to thanks for sharing this article here.

  5. Sea freight can be a little outdated as nowadays there is air freight service which has taken up the market. Being reliant and the fastest mode of transportation, Airways has only one drawback that it is a bit costly as compared to the other mode of transportati

  6. Yes in my opinion, it is clearly observed that, Air Freight Forwarding has an edge over Sea freight Forwarding because, Air Freight is said to be the more convenient and faster mode of transportation as it consumes little time in delivering of goods, when compare to Sea Freight because, sea carrier sailings generally takes a week or another to deliver the product, depending upon the trade lane.

  7. Hariesh,
    How are the rates processed by the sales person? and in what part of the process does the mark up/profit occur?
    Please specify

  8. Hi,

    The Oil Tanker industry has been experimenting to reduce their mechanized fuel requirement by fixing large sails to harness wind and augment their energy requirement. They have been able to save up to 15% of their fuel.

    However, this approach on regular basis has yet to find acceptance in the shipping industry.


  9. I suggest including the consideration of environment. Obviously, air freight has a massive environmental impact compared with sea freight.

    To quantify this, publicly available statistics document that 1,000 kilograms of air freight in average will emit 500 grams of carbon dioxide for every kilometer it flies on a modern cargo airplane (B747). In comparison, if the same cargo was shipped by sea on a modern container vessel it would emit only 15 grams for every kilometre.

    Obviously, the air route (assuming we take a relatively direct flight) will normally be much shorter than the route at sea. If we take into consideration that the air route from China to Europe is 9,000 kilometers while the sea route is 18,000 kilometers via the Suez Canal – a shipment of 200 kilograms moving from China to Europe will thereby emit 900 kilograms of carbon dioxide if shipped by air and only 54 kilograms of carbon dioxide if shipped by sea.

    • Hi Morten you are correct.. Shipping by sea has one of the lowest carbon emissions among all modes of transport by air, road, rail and sea..
      Data accessed from the The Worlds largest ship’s website (http://www.worldslargestship.com/the-ship/#page/environment/smart-transport) pegs the Grams of CO2 emitted by transporting 1 ton of goods 1 km at

      • Ship – 3g
      • Train – 18g
      • Truck – 45g
      • Aeroplane – a staggering 565g

      That is quite a big difference. 🙂

    • The environmental side is indeed worth considering. However the situation is a bit more subtle: a lot of air freight, in fact in some trade lanes the large majority, is carried in passenger planes (called “mix operations”, by contrast with “all cargo operations”). Several of those passenger planes would fly anyway, with our without cargo. The environmental impact is not driven by the air shipment in those cases, but by the passengers. It could even be argued that the air freight in those cases is emitting almost zero emission (except for the additional weight it brings to the aircraft)! This is not to say that airplanes do not have an environmental impact, but to point out that air freight emission is not that easy to assess and may in some instances be less damaging than any other modes when it “piggybacks” on passenger transportation.

  10. Hi!,

    As far as the safety aspect in air transport is concerned, we had a bitter experience.

    All our granite samples reached US in broken condition. The reason was, manual handling by ditching the packets from the plane on the ground.

    The impact from the plane’s height was enough for anything to break.

    We have been now taking extra care while packing the samples. The cushion we provide is enough for the packet to fall from 20’ above & even roll a couple of meters.




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