Ocean Freight Vs. Air Freight: Which Is Right For You
10 Jul
10, Jul 2023

In today’s interconnected world, transporting goods across borders has become an integral part of countless businesses. As organizations expand their markets globally, selecting the right freight option becomes essential for affordable and efficient logistics.

Regarding international shipments, two methods stand out: air freight and ocean freight. Each transportation mode offers its own set of limitations and benefits, making the decision important for corporations looking to optimize their logistics operations.

This guide will discuss the contrasts between air and ocean freight logistics across various metrics and help you determine the best option for your particular shipping needs.

What Is Ocean Shipping? 

It is a traditional and dependable method of transporting goods across continents and has been global trade’s backbone for centuries. Large cargo vessels can carry massive amounts of freight, making it suitable for heavy cargo and bulk shipments.

Its significant benefit lies in its affordability, especially for non-urgent and long-distance deliveries. Approximately 90% of international imports and exports pass through seaports.   

Benefits Of Ocean Freight

  • Perfect for non-perishable and less time-sensitive items

  • Cost-effective for heavy and oversized shipments

  • Environment-friendly method

Cons Of Ocean Freight

  • Slower transit times than air freight

  • Vulnerable to delays owing to customs clearance, port congestion, and weather conditions

What Is Air Freight?

Air freight functions by shipping items in a helicopter or airplane from point A to point B. The goods are placed into pallets, boxes, and crates and loaded onto an aircraft.

This shipping method usually entails using ground transport on both ends of the flight to move goods from their starting point to the airport and vice versa at their final destination.

Air freight is the ideal option for businesses that prioritize efficiency and speed. It is less susceptible to weather delays than ocean freight, making it more dependable in certain situations.

Benefits Of Air Freight  

  • Fastest mode of transportation, guaranteeing quick deliveries

  • Perfect for perishable goods

  • Reduced warehousing costs owing to shorter transit times

Cons Of Air Freight

  • Limited capacity for oversized cargo

  • Higher shipping costs than ocean freight, especially for heavy or bulky shipments

Ocean Freight Vs. Air Freight

When assessing whether ocean or air freight shipping is the right choice to meet your current shipping needs, ensure to take into consideration the following factors:

  • Cost

The cost of the shipments is of prime importance for most businesses globally. It is a fact that ocean freight is cost-effective and provides more capacity, whereas air freight is safer and faster but very expensive.

For instance, a package that costs $200 to ship via ocean freight could cost $1000 if shipped by air. Therefore, it is recommended to use air freight when it costs less than 15% to 20% of the goods’ value.  

It is important to note that for ocean freight when a package is small and does not fill an entire container’s load, its cost is calculated in cubic meters. Mostly, this can cost more than air freight for an identical package. You must calculate and compare prices before choosing the shipment mode.

  • Speed

Air freight is undoubtedly faster than ocean freight. Ocean freight logistics can take several weeks to arrive, while air freight takes only a day or two to reach its destination.

Though ships are becoming faster and ocean transportation routes are continuously being optimized, air freight still remains the fastest transportation mode.

In many industries, shorter delivery times are progressively becoming the norm, but before rushing to send everything by air, you must take time to plan your shipping strategy. Creating long-term efficiencies will save you money in the long haul.

  • Intricacies Of Ocean Alliances

While agreements with ocean freight companies increase reliability, they can also cause problems. For instance, if three ocean freight forwarders in USA collaborate, you may acquire a vessel from one forwarder one week and an identical vessel from a different forwarder the following week.

Each forwarder has its own specific rules concerning the permitted types of commodities. Thus, despite shipping the same item on the same vessel every week, if a different ocean freight company is in charge, your shipment may be prohibited due to potential rule changes.


Selecting between air and ocean freight depends on a careful assessment of your business’s needs, urgency, budget constraints, and environmental considerations. If cost is not a concern and speed is of the essence, air freight can be the finest option.

However, ocean freight may be the best choice if you have larger shipments and prioritize affordability and environmental responsibility. Most companies find the hybrid approach beneficial, using ocean freight for less time-sensitive and larger cargo and air freight for urgent shipments.

Whatever your decision, hiring professional ocean freight services and staying informed about the contemporary trends and developments in the shipping industry will guarantee your items reach their destination timely and efficient. Ensure to get an accurate ocean freight quote to guide your decision-making process.

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