There are numerous ways in which retailers (or any other type of seller) can deliver a product that is being sold to customers, if the distance is not so big. However, if the product has to be delivered to another continent, then you are basically left with only two choices, and that is going for either the ocean freight (transport the goods by ship) or the air freight (transport the goods by plane). These two options differ in many ways and choosing between them should depend on the situation. In order to help you with choosing between the two, here is a list of pros and cons of each of the options.
Air freight – Pros
The key argument for sending goods via a plane has always been the speed of delivery, in which category the air freight takes the cake in front of any other means of transport. Simply, humans have yet to invent something that transports goods faster than an airplane. This is why this mode of transport is always used in situation where speed is of the essence. Some goods require that they reach the destination as fast as possible, while, in other cases, the customers are impatient. This, however, does not come without a price, but, more on that later.
Another key point is that with air freight, your goods will have the least risk of getting damaged or destroyed in any way. Sure, there is always the risk that the plane will crash, but, those risks are absolutely minimal. When it comes to handling, storing and securing your package, airport regulations take very good care of that. There are strict rules that have to be followed when handling goods and, as was already said, due to the speed of transport, the items which can expire are far more less likely to do so.
Air freight – Cons
Surely you must have realized by now that taking the fastest and the safest mode of freight does not come without a price. This is also the most expensive type of delivery that you can choose. The speed and safety are important, but any seller has to be careful not to overextend their budget, because then there is no profit (which has no point when someone is trying to sell something). Some retailers decide to pass these costs to the customer, but that only happens when they really want to have the goods delivered fast. Either way, any merchant should only choose this if speed and safety are of vital importance.
This is one of the main reasons why air freight has not yet blown away any competition that it might have in the transport market (it is even one of the reasons why it is so expensive). Since the airplane’s cargo space is significantly smaller than that of a cargo ship, load volumes for this type of transport is much smaller, making it harder to pull the same numbers as the ocean freight, for example. So, every place on the plane is precious and worth a lot of money. For example, when the new iPad was launched, air freight prices increased by 20%, all because it could not service such a demand.
Ocean freight – Pros
While the air freight is the most expensive in this game, ocean fright takes the exactly opposite side on the matter of money required. This is one of the cheapest ways to transport goods from one place to another. This is why so many companies opt for it. It is not hard to find a place on a cargo ship to store things and, more significantly, the cost of that ship reaching its destination is shared by a lot of other cargo that is on the same ship. So, when time of delivery is not an issue, this is the option that you should be going for, simply because it will save you a lot of money.
As I said above, this is not the category that really suits airplanes. However, cargo ships can carry really massive amounts of cargo. The best thing is that it makes no difference as to what shape or size the things that need to be transported are. Ships can carry any kind of equipment, heavy machinery, cars or whatever other large product you can name. Also, they can store a lot of them at once, which means that competitive rates are high and they can service large demands with ease. This would be a great option if you have a great amount of goods that need to be shipped together.
Ocean freight – Cons
Any retailer will tell you that you have to make sure that the customer is satisfied. One of the factors which contribute to the customer satisfaction is how reliable the retailer is with delivery. Simply, if a customer orders something, he (or she) expects that it will arrive at the specified date. However, using ocean freight as a mode of transport means that you will have to sacrifice some of that satisfaction. You cannot rely on ships, because they run on weekly schedules and the risks of something going wrong (and the shipment getting delayed) are high. While this does not mean that the goods will get damaged, the customer satisfaction will surely drop if he (or she) has to suffer a delay in delivery.
Ships are incredibly slow when compared to airplanes. They have a lot of distance to cover and it takes them quite a while to do so. While an airplane may deliver the goods in a day or two, a freighter will usually take a month (should there be no delays). Some will say that the technology is advancing and that some shipping companies now offer to deliver the goods in as much as 10 days, but this is still well below the par set by the airplane.
The most important thing to remember about choosing between these modes of inter-continental transport is that everything depends on the situation. When you have to choose speed over cost, feel free to do so, but remember that it should only be in cases where you will make a profit. However, if there is no need to hurry, then you can easily choose ocean freight, as it will deliver the goods at a much lesser cost.
Author BioJohn Collings is a full time employee with International Freight Forwarding Company who specialize in international Airfreight/Sea freight, Customs Clearance & Special Transport Projects - Allworld Logistics – as a export manager.