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International Shipping: How To Choose Between Air And Ocean Freight

air and ocean cargo

If you own a business that sells physical products, chances are you need to find a system of shipping outside of your home country. The world is a big place; with around 7.7 billion people inhabiting this rock floating through space, not catering to those on the other ends of the earth equates to a loss of business, pure and simple. However, with two main options — air and ocean cargo — which one is right for your business? Let’s take a look at three of the most important factors to take into account when making this decision.

  • Cost: Though ocean cargo companies usually charge less for shipping, it’s not an absolute. Airlines bill you by ‘chargeable weight,’ which is determined from the weight and size of shipment. Sea carriers charge container rates (usually the 20 foot by 40 foot shipping containers), so they’re focused more on size than weight. Therefore, if your shipments are larger and heavier, ocean shipping is the better option; if your shipments are smaller, sometimes air transport will end up less expensive.
  • Speed: If time is of the essence — such as with the transport of perishable goods — air freight is the preferred option. Time is money, after all; you may end up spending more in wasted time than you would have saved choosing the cheaper sea cargo rate. Most businesses that sell products agree that faster is better — although technological advancements are increasing the speed of all deliveries worldwide (thanks to new canals and faster ships), it’s hard to compete with an airplane.
  • Reliability: Despite the fact that air freight is a relatively new industry (compared to ocean cargo), it tends to be more reliable. Flights may get delayed, but airlines are so careful in their scheduling that these almost never result in losses or problems for businesses. Ocean carriers are less consistent; while a day or two may not impact a massive company, it could derail a smaller startup.

The air cargo industry represents around 30% of the total worldwide shipment value, but that doesn’t inherently make it the best choice for your needs. If you’ve weighed the pros and cons of air and ocean cargo shipping and taken into account your business and professional demands, the decision of which international freight shipping system to depend on is entirely in your hands.

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