Ocean vs. Air Freight: What’s right for you?

03 Nov Ocean vs. Air Freight: What’s right for you?

What is more important to you: price or time of transit? Is sustainability an important metric for your business? How far are you preparing your shipments? Whether ocean freight or air freight is right for you can decide these key questions.

Knowledge is important, as is the case with most business decisions. Choosing between freight modes is a complicated but important step towards building a successful supply chain, and the more information you have, the greater the likelihood that your goods will arrive on time and at the best price for your market. And conventional wisdom may not sometimes lead to the best result. That’s why, when choosing between ocean freight and air freight, we’ve broken down the considerations shippers will consider.

Here’s why Ocean Freight Ocean freight is the shippers ‘ most common choice. In fact, air is less than one percent by weight of international trade, but it is more than one-third by value. Here’s why: Cost: while a number of factors relate to any given shipment’s total cost, ocean freight usually has a much lower sticker price. Unlike air freight, which uses loading weight to calculate prices, ocean carriers pay for small shipments by volume of cargo and for larger shipments by container size (most usually 20′ and 40’). Ocean is generally best for: large and/or oddly shaped products that can not be easily handled, loaded and stored on aircraft Heavy cargo that can have a significant impact on your chargeable weight Products that are not perishable and/or in urgent demand As cargo becomes smaller and lighter, the price difference between air and ocean may shrink.

Environmental impact: As protection of the environment is rapidly becoming a global top concern, companies need to understand and reduce their carbon footprints.

The International Transport Forum reports that freight transport associated with trade accounts for approximately 7% of global emissions. And according to the polluter pays principle, a fundamental principle in U.S. environmental law, the polluter should be held accountable and pay for environmental damage.

“The future of low-emission freight transport lies in the nexus of intelligent policy, fuel efficiency, and system, space, and data innovation. Technology will provide about 70% of the potential CO2 reduction by 2050. The rest will come from doing things differently, and that’s where there’s a lot of potential. “–Secretary of the International Transport Forum, General Jose Viegas Not only is ocean freight cheaper for shippers, it has much lower environmental costs. Long-haul air freight, according to MIT, generates 47x as much greenhouse gas emissions per tonne-mile as ocean freight. Replacing a portion of ocean freight air shipments is a simple way to reduce carbon emissions, and it is a crucial step for sustainability-related businesses.

Check out Prime Freight.org if you’re looking for an easy way to measure and reduce shipping-level carbon emissions.

Read Prime Freight CEO Ryan Petersen’s take on Using Data to Manage Carbon Emissions in Global Transportation Here’s Why You Should Choose Air Freight These are the main factors leading many shippers to choose air freight: Speed: Air freight is significantly faster than ocean freight. It may take up to a month to move goods by sea, and it may take three days for your goods to unload at port. Depending on distance, air freight takes as few as 36 hours from source to destination. This often makes air the perfect solution for: High-value cargo such as electronics and luxury goods: when a company spends a large amount of money producing a given good, the more important it becomes to get the good to market and redeem costs of production Niche and specialty products: consumers typically expect custom or specialty goods within a short period of purchase E-commerce products and what’s commonly known as “fast fashion”: many retail companies rely on a regular rotation of products as part of their business model Perishables: flowers and other perishables must be moved quickly Ease and reliability: Fewer days of travel time lead to fewer headaches. While an issue on the sea could cause significant delays lasting days, weeks, and even months, air freight rebounds quickly. If your air shipment is delayed by weather or other factors, an alternative route or flight is usually available within 24 hours. Once the cargo is loaded onto an aircraft, you know exactly when it will arrive at the airport. This makes planning getting the cargo to your final destination much easier.

In addition, most countries have streamlined air requirements for customs and other paperwork. General pricing, booking, and report selection processes are simplified as each player is tailored for rate.

Related blog post: Taking Air Freight Predictability Three Shopping Tips: Ocean vs. Air In 2017, a number of factors led to space shortages and record-high air freight prices. Don’t let this year impact you with similar issues. Select a reliable forwarder with strong support from carriers when considering air and ocean space. These have generally set quotas for ocean freight and block space arrangements with airlines flying on major commercial lanes.
The pains of trying to reach your forwarder in a pinch are probably familiar to you. Service is one of those things that doesn’t seem to be too important when you don’t need it, but when something goes wrong, it’s the only thing that matters. Choose a forwarder for businesses of all sizes with a track record of excellent customer service.
Thankfully, the market has entered information. Choose a forwarder that supports data use, and one that makes every hour of the day easy for you to understand and access the key information electronically. This will help reduce costs, make informed decisions, and play the long game for your company.
There are countless factors in determining which type of freight transport is best for a given delivery, and companies also rely on both ocean and air combinations. Regardless of the size of a company, a data-driven forwarder with a customer-first mindset is the key to consistent, successful freight shipments.