Air vs sea freight transport – which is better?

When shipping items to another country or continent, picking the best shipping option is one of the first steps. Also, when people are moving, their household items must be transported somehow. You have two options, to ship them with either an airplane or boat. But, what are the differences and which is a better option for you? The battle between air vs sea freight transport may begin. Each side has both, advantages and disadvantages. It is only up to you and the nature of your goods.

First, choose a freight forwarding company in Jeddah that has both types of transport, so you can make a parallel. A good company is a must because even if you pick the right option for you if the company is not reliable, anything can go wrong. Such as damaged good, too expensive service, delivery not on time, you will not be able to track your shipment, etc.

Besides these two freight transport option (air and sea), there is the third option, transport by road. But, it is only used for transport within the same country or two countries between which there is no sea or ocean or are not too far away.

What to consider before choosing the type of freight transport?


Yellow airplane on purple background
Choose the best option for your shipment.

Before choosing, you must know some information and you will choose wisely.

  1. Costs – The first factor is, of course, money. When choosing between air vs sea freight transport, you should calculate your budget. If you have a business, as a business person, probably you want to make more money. In most cases, sea transport is cheaper. To understand it, you should know how careers are charging. If you have heavy items to ship, it is cheaper to transport it by sea.
  2. Speed – If you need fast delivery, air freight is faster. Sometimes, time is money, so if you are in a hurry, choose a freight by air. By sea, you will wait at least 3 or 4 weeks. For business purposes, speed is a huge factor, but if you are moving your household items, it is not a bad option to wait a little longer until you finish the rest of the work you have with moving.
  3. Reliability – No matter if you are a businessman or individual, reliability is always welcome. Sea transport has a very long history, but air transport is more reliable. Deliveries are on time even when the flights are delayed because of the weather. Transport by sea may not arrive on time, but if a couple of days does not have a big role, then pick the sea freight.
  4. Environmental impact – Many people nowadays think about environmental impact and also that can change the way people look at your freight company. Taking care of the planet is one of the factors. CO2 emissions are higher in air freight transport. On the other side, there are oil spills and the water ecosystems affected by sea freight.

Air vs sea freight transport – what to choose?

Picking the right transport option is crucial for importers and individuals too. So, you should understand some new terms. Being between air vs sea freight transport requires collecting all the information. Here are some more facts to know.

Sea freight

For a shipment that is heavier than 100kg, you should choose sea freight because of the price. There are two types. The first is the FLC shipment (full container load). That means that your container will be filled with only your goods. The second type is LCL (less than container load) and with this type, your loads will be together with someone else’s goods together in the same container.

A boat with shipping containers.
For large shipments, sea freight is a better option.

You can choose between a different size of FLC containers. The maximum weight of each container is 28 tons. The most usual sizes of the containers are 20 and 40 foot. Be patient, because the average time for delivery from the USA to China, for example, is 25 day.

Air freight

A good option for electronics or urgent deliveries. Air freight is commonly used of shipment of 1 cubic meter or less, for shipping small packages. It is fast, and when you need to ship a few and light items, the price is almost the same as sea transport. The shipment type is similar to LCL, but of course, in this case, it is port to port service.

Air freight, loading goods into a plane.
Air freight is faster but more expensive for larger shipments.

How to calculate the volume of goods?

The formula is very simple. It is important to calculate the volume it before you ship your items because it will determine the price and type of transport. When you have to calculate goods in kgs/cbm (kilograms/cubic meter) you should first measure the length, width, and height. After that multiply it with 167 kg/cbm (or 200kg/cbm for air freight).

A math formula on black board.
Calculating the volume of your goods is simple.

For example, the size of the box is 1.1m x 0.5m x 0.7m. That is 0.385 cubic meters. Multiply it with 167 and you will get 64.295 kg/cbm. If you have 5 of these boxes, the volume will be 5 times bigger (in this case 321.475 kg/cbm). When you hire a logistics company in Saudi Arabia, they will calculate it too. But having this information before the transport will help you a lot.

Summary – the pros and cons

As we mentioned before, each side has pros and cons too. Pros of air freight transport are speed and safety, and the cons are costs and capacity. Pros of sea transport are costs and capacity, and the cons are reliability and speed. Depending on your needs and budget, choose between air vs sea freight transport. We have shown you some facts you should know before making a decision, the rest is up to you. If you pick the right freight forwarding company, there will not be a bad decision.

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