Air vs. Ocean: What’s Best for Your Shipments?

Air vs. Ocean: What’s Best for Your Shipments?

No matter what type of cargo you’re shipping, choosing the right mode of transportation is critical. There are so many elements to balance—speed, cost, and capacity among them—and additional complexities resulting from pandemic complications.

The question of whether to choose air or ocean freight for your cargo is an age-old discussion, but when you consider the current state of logistics, the answer might be a little different than it would have been just a few years ago.

There are pros and cons to each method, so you’ll need to weigh the options and consider your end customer before deciding. Each case should be approached independently to ensure the best and most reliable outcome for all parties.

Air vs. Ocean Freight Considerations

Here are five key elements to consider when choosing between air and ocean freight.

1. Costs

Historically, ocean freight has always been cheaper than air. You’d choose air only when expedience was necessary, and the price didn’t matter. However, the pandemic changed a lot of things in logistics, and this is a prime example. As ocean shipping costs continue to rise due to lack of capacity, air freight has become a more viable option, especially when the alternative for a merchant is stock-outs, delays, and unhappy customers. Statistically, pre-pandemic air freight pricing was about 15 times higher than ocean. Today, according to industry experts, it’s only about three to five times higher. For the added reliability, many businesses feel it’s worth it.

7 Essential Skills That Improve Logistics Decision-Making

2. Speed

Air gets your shipment where it’s going faster and more reliably than any other mode of transport. Ocean freight might take weeks, and you need to prepare for the unexpected even then. Air can get your goods where they’re going in a fraction of the time, which is certainly preferred in some cases. Ultimately, it’s critical to plan well and work with a trusted logistics partner to create a sustainable plan.

3. Reliability

Air transport is susceptible to schedule changes for various reasons, but flights are rescheduled quickly in most cases, and the delays are not severe. Rerouting freight from ocean transport isn’t as easily accomplished as it usually takes a few days to get a shipment back on track.

4. Complexities

Navigating the complexities of logistics in the post-pandemic world requires experience, insight, and adaptability. Knowing the carriers, their rules, and the requirements of each transportation mode is critical, but you must also be alert to current events and political shifts that might impact the result. Sometimes you’ll need to make air vs. ocean decisions based on variables beyond cost and timelines.

5. Goods/Industry

Different industries and types of goods have different expectations where freight is concerned. For example, some perishables might be better shipped via air freight, whereas others can withstand long transit times on the ocean. In ecommerce, customer expectations are high, and when you’re competing with mega-merchants like Amazon, fast delivery times will help you build your customer base.

At DTS World Cargo, our experts evaluate your company’s needs so we can offer the most suitable transportation.