What’s the difference between sea freight and air?

March 3, 2017


Depending on the size of the machinery or equipment you want to send, it may be clear cut whether air or sea freight is the best option. But in some cases, what you’ll be shipping could be suitably sized for either option. In these instances, what are the variables that determine which option is the most appropriate?

When is air freight the best option?

Air freight is inherently faster than sea freight, but this time efficiency is balanced out with a number of other constraints that mean it isn’t always the best option. For one, it can be significantly more expensive, especially if the equipment that needs shipping requires specific aircraft to be chartered.

When air freight is the most appropriate service for your needs, it’s important to build relationships with an experienced freight services provider. For example, some of the services worth looking out for include the ability to charter specialist aircraft, access to priority shipping services for urgent delivery and acknowledging the effort needed to transport dangerous goods by air.

You also have to consider the weight of what you need to transport. Typically, shipping via sea freight will see you charged per container, with weight not always a factor. With air freight, you will be charged based on an item’s size and weight.

The size and weight of the item designated for transport isn’t the only concern. It’s also important to keep in mind time constraints and whether it’s actually feasible to transport the goods in question to a suitable airport.

How do you know when to use sea freight?

When it comes to shipping oversized items such as construction and mining machinery, every stage of the journey requires careful planning. If you want to ship CAT dump trucks from Chile to Australia, what will it take to get the vehicles from the site to the port and then vise versa at the other end?

Sea freight is often the more cost-effective option.

We’ve made this exact journey for a past job. Because the 10 vehicles in question were oversized, we couldn’t use the main port in the region, and instead had to identify an alternate port to ensure safe travel. When choosing a freight option, the solution we recommend will be directed by the type of equipment being shipped.

For oversized vehicles in particular, sea freight is significantly more cost-effective, with the only downside being a longer transit time. If you can take this into account when planning the job, you can alleviate one of the few pain points in the sea freight process.


Freightplus. Worldwide.

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