When it comes to moving your business’s cargo, there are countless decisions to make. One of the biggest, however, is whether to opt for air freight or sea freight. Here at A Customs Brokerage, we’ve been helping clients understand and navigate this decision for decades so our clients can make an informed decision suited to their business.

While we’d be happy to offer you individualized consultations, keep reading to explore the fundamental differences between air freight and sea freight – and which may be the ideal route for your company’s global freight needs.

Air Freight

Perhaps the most significant difference between air-based and water-based transit is transportation and delivery time. If speed and reliability are at the top of your priority list, air freight is the way to go. Although much more expensive, your products are guaranteed to arrive faster than when shipped via sea freight. Moreover, air freight offers greater control over product arrival time; air freight shipments often arrive within a day or two, exponentially faster than sea freight.

Air freight is typically billed by weight. Depending on the size of your shipment, a weight-based billing system has the potential to lower your freight costs, especially relative to ocean freight.

Another facet of this conversation to consider is environmental. Sustainability and solid environmental practices are growing concerns for companies worldwide, and air freight emits far more carbon dioxide than the ocean freight model.

However, it is worth noting that air freight is much more restrictive in terms of the kinds of products it will move. Just like when you go through airport security and board a plane, air freight has specific guidelines that prohibit certain hazardous items. If you opt for air freight, you’ll need to ensure that your goods do not violate any of these parameters. Here are some examples of items labeled hazardous by the airlines:

  • Gases, even light bulbs
  • Flammable items (which may include perfumes)
  • Toxic or corrosive items, such as batteries
  • Magnetic substances like speakers
  • Anything with a danger sign on the packaging

If your product falls within these guidelines, air freight might still be an ideal option for your business. There are higher volumes of cargo planes departing than there are ships, and airlines are generally a bit speedier and more organized than sea freight operations. These two factors increase the likelihood of your goods arriving on time and as scheduled.

To recap, here are the Pros and Cons of using Air Freight:

Pros of using Air Freight:

  • Faster
  • Often more reliable
  • It may be more economical for lighter packages
  • More likely to arrive on time

Cons of Using Air Freight:

  • Worse for the environment
  • Generally, much more expensive
  • Limit on what items can be shipped

What is Sea Freight

Sea Freight has long been the standard for international freight and shipping practices. If your business chooses to go for ocean transport, you’ll be following in the footsteps of thousands of different companies that have evolved the sea freight industry. Without a doubt, this is the tried and true method of product transportation. Although air freight has emerged as a slightly more reliable option, sea freight allows companies to bypass restrictive product guidelines, save on shipping costs, and transport larger, heavier items.

What about the cost? To give you a comparison, a package that costs $195 by sea freight can easily cost over $1,000 via air. If we’re just talking about the financial aspect of shipping, sea freight will likely save you money. Unlike air freight, ocean transit is usually priced by cubic meters.

Better yet, water-based transit minimizes the negative environmental impacts of global freight. A growing number of consumers are deeply concerned about company environmental practices, and sea freight might be a much more compelling option for your client base. Relatively speaking, ships produce far less carbon dioxide than planes.

So, if your company or customers are big on being green, this option is for you.

The most significant downside to sea freight is the timeline. Shipping by water can often take up to a month, and it isn’t uncommon to see a shipment delayed. If you’re in a rush and an extra two days could make it or break it, sea freight may not be the right choice for you and your business.

To review, here is a list of the Pros and Cons of Sea Freight:

Pros of using Sea Freight

  • Great for larger items
  • Overall a much cheaper option
  • Less of a carbon footprint
  • Fewer regulations

Cons of using Sea Freight

  • Slower
  • Unpredictable delivery time

A Customs Brokerage Ocean Shipping & Air Cargo Service

Ultimately, the decision between air freight and sea freight is dependent on a business’s specific needs, priorities, and constraints. The debate between transport modes is almost always more nuanced than any blog could cover, but this is where A Customs Brokerage can help. We work with you and your business to find the perfect, customized global shipping solution.

Here’s what we can do to help you make the best decision for your company’s freight needs:

  • Ensuring company compliance with regulations
  • Negotiating the best prices
  • Prioritizing your company’s needs and making decisions with your best interest in mind
  • Organizing and tracking shipments
  • Avoiding costly mistakes and pitfalls that those outside the industry cannot foresee

Contact Us

We have been in business for over 40 years and treat every one of our clients like family. Not only is our staff professionally trained to understand your unique professional needs, but our expertise, dedication, and track record are also unparalleled.