A neverending debate in the world of shipping is which is better, ocean freighting or shipping by plane? There is no universal answer to this debate, many factors affect the final decision. When choosing the transport vessel, clients should always have these factors in mind; distance, type of cargo, time sensitivity, cost consideration, cargo safety, accessibility and the ecological impact. While choosing the freight shipping methods, taking these factors into consideration is a necessary part of the decision making process.
Airfreight is definitely the most preferred shipping method when it comes to a direct city to city transport or direct routes between countries. Sea freight shipping, however, is widely preferred in cases of shipments that need to travel great distances with more stops on the way, which allows for the possibility of LCL shipping.
TYPE OF CARGO
Perishable goods, like flowers or fresh produce, are usually shipped by air, because of the speed of shipping and the short shelf life of this type of cargo. Airfreight allows for the shipment to arrive faster, ensuring the freshness of perishable goods. There are some exceptions of course, like bananas for example that are usually shipped by boat due to their long ripening process. Airfreight is, in most cases, limited by capacity, weight and safety factors which reduce the types of cargo it can carry. Sea freight shipping has an absolute advantage in this case because the container sizes of sea freighters can support any type of goods. Ocean freighting is also used to transport heavy equipment which simply isn’t transportable by airfreight.
Due to high fuel consumption, limited capacity and high operational costs of a plane, airfreight is a noticeably more expensive option. Thanks to the volume of the cargo a ship can carry at once, and the possibility for LCL shipments, sea freight shipping is the more cost-effective option and allows for more favorable shipping quotes.
With airfreight currently being the fastest mode of transportation between two locations, it is often chosen when time sensitivity is a major factor in the decision making process. Cargo shipped by air arrives at the destination way ahead of cargo shipped by sea. Although, not all cargo is time sensitive, and does not have to arrive to customers as fast as possible. Sea freight shipping allows for a greater volume of cargo to be shipped at the same time, and with planning involved allows for cargo to arrive exactly on time, while being the more cost-effective option.
Air cargo involves minimal handling, therefore there is a minimal risk of damaging the cargo. Thanks to strict air shipping regulations there is a guarantee that the cargo will be handled properly. While sea freight containers are a safe way of transporting goods, there is a big possibility of cargo damage in case of improper packaging.
Thanks to the small volume of air shipments they tend to be handled more quickly. Also, the congestion at airports is way smaller than queues at seaports. Because of the big volume of sea freight shipments, long waiting periods are often, which can bring to additional costs like demurrage and detention. Sea freight shipping has an advantage in terms of market accessibility compared to airfreight, as there is the likelihood of cargo containers traveling further inland by rail.
It is becoming increasingly important to apply eco-friendly practices, so it is not surprising that this is one of the considerations on which shippers base their decision. According to these specific criteria, sea freight shipping is a more reasonable option as it has a significantly better carbon footprint. Airplanes, on the contrary, are serious polluters and require special attention and measures to reduce their carbon footprint.