If you are only shipping across North America, you already know what works best: Road and rail freight are cheaper and allow for larger cargo, while air freight is much faster. However, if you intend to ship internationally, you should expect orders across the ocean.
In that case, you should definitely consider sea freight. Even if there is an option to transport the goods via land (South America for example), shipping might still be a better solution. It is slower than air freight, but there are numerous benefits to shipping via sea.
Reputable logistics companies that specialize in delivering valuable cargo, such as Unival Logistics, will most often recommend this kind of transportation for overseas orders.
Because there is an obvious speed limit in this kind of transportation, the freight costs are naturally lower than air. The other reason lies in the loading capacity of container ships. These ships generate enormous profit with every shipment just because of the volume of each load, allowing them the luxury of maintaining lower prices per parcel than air freight.
This is also the reason sea freight is cheaper than road; container ships can load much more cargo than trucks and trains. Therefore, if you have enough time, and sea freight is an option, you should always ship via sea.
Road freight carries the most risk of shipment damage. The human factor combined with bumpy roads and bad weather often causes a lot of tumbling that can damage the shipment. Not to mention unfortunate accidents that often happen on the road.
Airfreight is somewhat better, but airplanes are often exposed to violent turbulence due to bad weather, the difference in air pressure, and tough landing sometimes. Ships carry the lowest risk of shipment damage of all freight options.
They travel at a low speed, which reduces the chance of fragile goods getting damaged, as long as they are packed properly. Ships usually operate on set routes, so there is less handling of packages, where the goods often get damaged.
As already mentioned, container ships can carry much more cargo than any other freight option. Aside from this making them cheaper, it also allows you to send large shipments across the ocean at once.
This might not be of great importance for smaller shippers, but it means the world to larger companies. However, even if you are shipping just one very robust package, you might only be able to ship it via sea.
There is a variety of goods that can’t be shipped by air. This includes various goods considered to be hazardous, such as explosives of any kind, gases (such as compressed gas, gas lighters, dry ice, aerosol cans, etc.), any solid or liquid flammables, medical waste, and similar.
All of these goods are, however, allowed on ships if packed properly. There are numerous safety measures required to fulfill to ship such packages, but sea freight is the only way to ship them to other continents, making this a great advantage of shipping via sea.
Every port in the world has a train station nearby. Governments worldwide are intentionally building railroad systems that connect all the major centers with the seaports to expedite the flow of goods.
This is also a great advantage to sea freight because not all airports are connected with railroads. Rail freight is cheaper and faster than road freight because trains can carry more load, they are more energy-efficient, they don’t pollute, and there is less delay since the railroads operate independently and on a fixed schedule.
Furthermore, the goods are less likely to get damaged by rail freight than by road freight. The traffic is predictable, there’s next to zero chance for accidence, and there is less turbulence. All of this makes rail freight the best option on land if available, and the seaports are almost always connected with railroads.
Airplane departures often get delayed due to bad local weather, and sometimes they are forced to land at alternative airports for the same reason. Road freight is even worse, especially in North America, which is often struck by bad weather such as hurricanes, tornados, or snowstorms. This often causes major traffic delays.
Even when such things happen, the shipments usually get delivered sooner than by sea freight. However, this doesn’t mean a lot to the customer, since the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) is not fulfilled.
Container ships are less dependant on the weather (unless there’s a hurricane). Of course, storms do happen on the open sea as well, but these ships are designed to withstand most of them and still deliver the majority of goods undamaged. Even if there is a delay, ETA for sea freight is much more relaxed, so the customer probably won’t even feel the delay.
Depending on your preferences and circumstances, any of the mentioned types of transportation in logistics can be the best for you: road freight for its accessibility, rail for its price and punctuality, air for its speed, but if you’re shipping across the ocean, nothing beats sea freight.
Even though it is a lot slower than air freight, it’s also much cheaper, safer, and it can take incomparably more load, including hazardous materials that are prohibited on airplanes. If you have enough time and a lot of cargo, there’s nothing to think about – sea fright is the right choice.