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Ocean Freight Vs. Air Freight: Which is Better?

May 25 2022

Businesses dealing with international shipments are always faced with the dilemma of choosing between the ocean and air freight at some point. Determining which is better, air or sea freight, the two most popular methods of transporting cargo across continents, is undoubtedly a never-ending debate.

While ocean freight and air freight both serve the same purpose, they have their advantages and disadvantages separately. When evaluating which is the best option for your current shipping needs, air or ocean freight, be sure to consider the following factors.


It is well known that for large, heavy cargo, ocean freight offers more capacity while being less expensive to transport. Air freight is faster and safer but expensive. As the volume of shipments decreases, so does the price difference between air and ocean freight.

Although it may seem that ocean freight is always cheaper than air freight, when you figure out how each is billed, you will see that it is very important to make thorough calculations and cost comparisons before choosing a shipping method.

Air freight is billed by chargeable weight, which is an indicator calculated by combining the weight and dimensions of the shipment. In ocean freight, the weight of the shipment is usually not taken into account. Instead, ocean freight is billed by container - a full standard container (20' x 40') is charged at a flat rate. Less than the container load (LCL) is charged by the cubic meter.

Speed & Time

While cost is the primary consideration, time is equally important. The faster delivery times are quickly becoming an expectation in many industries. When it comes to speed, there is no doubt that air freight is faster than sea freight. In addition to longer times and distances, it is important to consider port hold-ups, customs and weather conditions. While ships are now getting faster and shipping routes are being optimized, there is still no match for the speed of air transport.

Air freight also promises predictability in a way that sea freight cannot. Departure and arrival times are predeterminable, as are customs and border crossings. In this case, unpredictable delays also rarely occur. Therefore, air freight may be the better choice when it comes to speed. Of course, you don't have to air freight everything in some cases. Just take the time to carefully plan your shipping strategy, saving your transportation costs and creating long-term efficiencies.


In addition to time and cost, it is vital to ensure that goods arrive safely. Otherwise, this can lead to an unnecessary logistical burden. In this area, the human factor is extremely primary.

Both air freight and ocean freight involve the impact of manual handling on cargo security. In other words, the potential for human-induced damage exists in both cases. Usually, the rules for handling are strictly defined by airport authorities, while sea freight containers must be packed in a safe way to avoid damage caused by unforeseen circumstances.


The ease of accessibility of goods is an important criterion when choosing a transport mode, and in any case, air freight prevails in this respect. First of all, considering the number of airports worldwide, and secondly, the well-defined air freight procedures, downtime is much shorter than sea freight due to the lower cargo volume.

On the other hand, the smaller number of seaports results in heavy traffic, leading to heavy congestion and longer waiting times. This may also lead to additional costs, such as demurrage and detention charges. Nevertheless, ocean freight also gives great access to markets from a commercial point of view.


Well, as mentioned above, the factors related to both shipping modes are to be considered in combination. If you are still struggling with whether to choose ocean freight or air freight for the international transportation of your goods, HaiYuan can help you. We can provide you with cost-effective and professional logistics solutions at reasonable prices. Please feel free to contact us at

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