Why choose sea freight over air freight?

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Why choosing sea freight over air freight?

When it comes to shipping goods and cargo internationally, businesses face the crucial decision of choosing between sea freight and air freight.

Both options have their advantages and considerations, but in many cases, opting for sea freight can be a wise choice.

In this article, we will explore why sea freight is a cost-effective and advantageous option for shipping. By examining its impact on businesses, goods transportation, and overall profitability, we will demonstrate why sea freight is a compelling choice.

What is Sea Freight?

Sea freight is also known as ocean freight. It is a widely used mode of transport for shipping goods and freight across international borders.

This mode of transport involves moving products on large cargo ships that traverse the vast expanses of the world’s oceans and seas.

When companies need to transport large quantities of heavy goods over long distances, ocean freight is a cost-effective option.

Sea freight generally offers a more cost-effective solution than other means of transport, especially when it comes to carrying bulk goods.

However, ocean freight is often associated with long delivery times. There are many types of sea freight, but the main ones are RoRo ships (Roll-On Roll-Off), bulk carriers, container ships, and VLCC (very large crude carriers).

Sea freight plays a crucial role in world trade, particularly for international companies shipping goods to and from developed countries such as China and the USA.

What is Air Freight?

Air freight is a mode of transportation that involves shipping goods and cargo by airplane.

This mode of transport is known for being very fast and efficient in transporting items over long distances, both nationally and internationally.

Air freight offers several advantages, including speed, reliability, and fast delivery times. This is made possible by the high speed of airplanes, allowing goods to reach their destination in a matter of days rather than several weeks or months.

Therefore, air freight is a good method when it comes to urgent shipments or perishable goods that require fast transportation. This mode of transport is suitable for transporting lightweight and high-value items. Since airplanes have a limited cargo capacity compared to vessels, air freight is often chosen to transport smaller but more valuable goods, such as electronics, pharmaceuticals, or luxury products.

There are several methods used for air freight: passenger aircraft, combination aircraft, freight-only aircraft, and supercargo aircraft.

It is important to note that while air freight offers a reliable and fast service, it is a relatively expensive mode of transportation, especially for heavier or larger shipments. It is also important to acknowledge that air freight contributes to pollution.

what is air freight

The benefits of Sea Freight


Due to the limited capacity and weight restrictions of planes, air freight often incurs higher costs compared to sea freight. In contrast, sea freight offers a more cost-effective solution for transporting cargo, making it a preferred choice for businesses looking to optimize their shipping expenses.


Ocean transport produces much lower emissions and has a better carbon footprint. Ships generally have a significantly lower fuel consumption rate per unit of cargo transported, resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The slower speed of sea freight compared to air freight also contributes to its environmental benefits. While air freight relies on jet engines that consume large amounts of fuel, sea vessels typically use more fuel-efficient engines, reducing their impact on the environment.

Sea freight transportation helps to build a more sustainable supply chain.


Let’s take the example of transporting goods from Hong Kong to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

For air freight, the average carbon emission per kilogram of goods transported on this route is around 3.5 kilograms of CO2. With a total weight of 10,000 kilograms, air freight generates around 35,000 kilograms (35 metric tons) of CO2 emissions.

For sea freight, the average carbon emission per kilogram of freight transported on the same route is around 0.01 kilograms of CO2.

Given the weight of the cargo, ocean freight would result in around 100 kilograms (0.1 tonnes) of CO2 emissions.

Air freight generates around 350 times more CO2 emissions than sea freight on the Hong Kong-Rotterdam route.

These figures are examples, as actual emissions may vary according to various factors such as distance, carrier efficiency, and specific shipment characteristics.

Capacity and Flexibility

Sea freight offers a significantly larger capacity for transporting goods compared to air freight. Ocean freight vessels, such as container vessels, can accommodate large volumes of cargo, while air freight is limited by the size and weight restrictions of aircraft.

Additionally, factors like high demand and peak seasons can further reduce air freight capacity. Therefore, businesses with larger shipments or substantial cargo volumes can benefit from choosing sea freight as it provides ample space for efficient transportation.

Moreover, sea freight provides flexibility in terms of schedules and regular services. Shipping lines offer frequent departures to major ports worldwide, ensuring a reliable and consistent transportation service. Businesses can plan their shipments well in advance, taking advantage of fixed sailing schedules. Additionally, the availability of multiple shipping routes and carriers further enhances flexibility, allowing companies to choose the most suitable options for their specific needs.

Sea freight offers a significantly larger capacity


The modal shift from air freight to sea freight requires a reassessment of the trade-off between three essential pillars: transport cost, customer service, and transport stock.

When opting for sea freight, the cost dimension becomes more attractive than the stock aspect. While air freight offers faster delivery, it is often accompanied by higher transport costs.

Implementing a tracking solution for sea freight shipments can significantly improve customer service. By providing real-time visibility and updates on the location and status of goods, companies can proactively communicate with customers, manage expectations and improve overall customer satisfaction.

Frequently Asked Questions about Air Freight and Ocean Freight

Sea freight offers several advantages over air freight. Firstly, it provides greater capacity and flexibility.

Secondly, sea freight is more cost-effective, especially for bulk goods or long-distance transportation.

Lastly, sea freight has a lower carbon footprint.

Generally, air freight is more expensive than sea freight.

Air freight involves higher transportation costs due to factors such as fuel consumption, handling charges at airports, and limited capacity for large shipments.

The choice between air freight and sea freight depends on various factors. If speed is crucial and the budget allows for it, air freight may be the preferred option.

On the other hand, if cost-effectiveness, capacity, and environmental impact are important considerations, sea freight is a viable choice.

It’s essential to evaluate your specific shipping requirements, including the nature of goods, urgency, volume, destination, and budget, to make an informed decision that aligns with your business objectives.

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