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Air Freight vs. Ocean Freight: Which One Works Better?

What's in this article?
  1. Air Vs Ocean Freight During Covid-19
  2. The Sea Vs Air Freight Dilemma
  3. Sea Vs Air Freight Costs
  4. Sea Vs Air Freight Transit Times
  5. Sea Vs Air Freight Environmental Impact
  6. Sea Vs Air Freight Safety And Reliability
  7. Air Freight Restrictions For Hazardous Goods
  8. Which Is Better Ocean Freight Or Air Freight?
  9. Key Takeaway
Air Freight vs. Ocean Freight: Which One Works Better?

When shipping a large volume of goods, you need to consider the pros and cons of air freight vs. ocean freight to know which one is more beneficial for your business.

Both of these are common types of shipping services that businesses use when they want to transport goods from one location to another.

However, while they seem similar on the surface, there are some key differences between air and ocean freight services.

We've put together this guide with everything you need to know about air freight vs. ocean freight shipping. This guide will give you the best chance of making an informed decision about which service is right for your business.

Keep reading to learn more!


Air vs. Ocean Freight during COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has hit global supply chains hard, and it looks like we're about to see major changes in how goods move around the world.

The transportation sector is unable to satisfy demand in the brief term. But long-term, the shift away from ocean freight could make sense.

There are multiple explanations for picking one modality above another. For example, ocean freight typically costs slower than air freight.

On the flip side, air freight is often much faster than ocean freight but is also much more expensive.

Nevertheless, there are additional aspects to consider while choosing between air and ocean freight. Here are three significant distinctions between the two methodologies:

1. Speed

Ocean freight is generally faster than air freight. So if you want to ship something quickly, you'll probably go with ocean freight. However, air freight is still much quicker than land transport.

2. Cost

If you want to save money, you'd likely opt for air freight. While ocean freight is usually cheaper than air freight, it's important to remember that the total cost depends on several different variables.

The Sea vs. Air Freight Dilemma

There are many reasons why you might choose one method of transportation over another.

For example, some products can't be transported via sea freight due to size and weight restrictions.

In addition, some products require special handling during transit. Continue reading to discover how to transport an item securely. Air freight is frequently regarded as the most cost-effective method of moving large quantities of merchandise.

However, it does come with certain drawbacks. You must factor in additional costs such as customs fees, brokerage fees, and insurance premiums. Also, you may face delays while waiting for clearance at ports.

Compared to air freight, ocean freight offers numerous benefits.

  • First, it is more affordable.
  • Second, it is safer because you don't have to worry about cargo getting damaged or lost.
  • Third, it allows you to use larger containers, thus reducing the number of shipments needed.
  • Fourth, it is faster.
  • Fifth, it provides better tracking capabilities.
  • Finally, it is environmentally friendly since it uses fewer resources than air freight.

When deciding whether to go with air or ocean freight, consider both the product and the destination.

If the product is fragile, heavy, bulky, or requires special care, you'll probably need to opt for ocean freight.

On the other hand, if the product is small, light, easy to handle, and doesn't require special attention, you could save money by opting for air freight.

If you're looking to transport a single piece of equipment, you'll likely find that air freight is cheaper than ocean freight.

However, if you're planning on shipping multiple pieces of equipment, you'll probably find that ocean freight is a better choice.


Sea vs. Air Freight Costs

The average price of sea freight can vary depending on the distance traveled and whether it is a one-way or round trip.

For example, ocean freight rates are usually cheaper than air freight because most cargo travels via ship.

However, the cost of ocean freight depends on many factors, including:

  • The size of the container
  • The type of goods being transported
  • Location of the destination port
  • How far away it is from the origin port

Air freight prices depend on several things, such as the mode of transportation, the number of stops along the way, the length of the route, the package size, and the distance between the origin and destination ports.

For instance, if you send a large item from New York to Los Angeles, the cost of air freight can be much higher than ocean freight.

On the other hand, if you send small items like books or clothing from New York to Chicago, the cost of air shipping might be similar to ocean shipping.

In addition, some countries offer free trade zones where companies can establish warehouses without paying customs duties. The business can then save money on taxes and fees.

Sea vs. Air Freight: Transit Times

Ocean freight is usually cheaper than shipping via air freight. Still, air freight is the way to go if you have a tight deadline because it is much faster than ocean transport.

If you're looking for a quick turnaround, choose airfreight over sea freight.

However, many factors influence how long it takes to ship goods by air versus sea.

Weather conditions play a big role, but other factors like customs clearance processes, port congestion, and delivery dates can impact transit times.

Sea vs. Air Freight: Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of ocean freight is much lower than that of air freight.

In fact, it takes up to 10 times fewer resources to transport goods via water than air. This makes shipping companies turn to the seas over land because it reduces emissions.

Nonetheless, sea freight still has a few disadvantages.

Ships generate greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen sulfide, organic volatile compounds, particulate matter, and mercury, among others. These contaminants lead to global warming, acid rain, pollution, and even mortality.

Sea vs. Air Freight: Safety and Reliability

Air freight carriers are safer and much more reliable than sea freight companies.

They offer better customer service, too.

However, they cost about twice as much per pound shipped. But if you want to ship something cross-country, consider using an air cargo carrier.

Air Freight Restrictions for Hazardous Goods

The United States Customs Service (USCS) overseas air freight shipments into and out of the country.

In addition to disclosing products, you must indicate whether they include dangerous substances.

If they do, there are specific rules regarding how much weight those hazardous materials can account for. Here are some examples of what you need to know:

  • For liquid chemicals, it's up to 10 pounds per gallon.
  • Explosives can weigh up to 20 pounds per pound.
  • Radioactive material must be packaged separately because it cannot exceed 5% of the total shipment.
  • Items containing asbestos must be shipped via special containers designed for handling asbestos.
  • You must notify the USCS of any hazardous materials being shipped within 24 hours of receiving notice.

Which Is Better: Ocean Freight or Air Freight?

Shipping via airfreight is the fastest way to send products overseas. So if you want to ensure your package arrives quickly, it's best to use air freight.

This option is often recommended for urgent shipments because it takes less time than sending items via ocean freight.

However, it costs much more money than sending items via ocean freighters.

Shipping via air freights is best for large packages and heavy goods.

For example, if you're sending a car across the globe, you might choose to go with air freight.

On the other hand, if you've got a small item like a laptop, you might opt for ocean freight.

In either scenario, you will likely save expenses by preferring air freight over ocean freight. You'll pay less for each pound of weight sent via ocean freight compared to air freight.

Plus, you'll receive tracking information about your package's location along the way.

Both methods of international shipping are safe and reliable. But, air freight is faster than ocean cargo.


Key Takeaway

As you've seen in this guide, air and ocean freight are two different shipping methods with their own pros and cons.

If you need your shipment to arrive as quickly as possible, air freight may be the best option for you.

Ocean freight may be better if you're shipping large or heavy items or if you need the least expensive shipping method.

Before you make your decision, compare each shipping method's costs and benefits to determine which is right for your business.

If you still have questions after browsing this blog, please do not hesitate to contact us for a satisfying response. Our customer service representatives are always here to assist you!

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Joe Webster always knew the auto transport industry would be a great career option. And with decades of experience, Joe is now an established consultant for A1 Auto Transport.

Joe was born in Santa Cruz, California. During high school, Joe worked as a mechanic; a job continued to work part-time during his bachelor's degree.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus Drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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