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Sea transport or air transport – which one to choose?

When considering the choice between air and maritime transport, several aspects need to be taken into account, in particular relating to transport time, its cost and the limits on the quantity, volume and characteristics of the goods transported.

Sea transport

Maritime transport is nothing more than transporting goods on ships. This type of transport gives the shipper great possibilities in terms of the type of goods that can be loaded onto the ship. In the case of sea transport, it is possible to transport almost any type of goods, both „oversized”; and goods requiring specific conditions, e. g. controlled temperature. It is much cheaper than air transport, but also much more time-consuming.

A significant percentage of the world’s maritime transport is the transport of goods in containers. The most popular containers are 20-foot, 40-foot and 40HC-high containers. The organization of the whole transport process is usually handled by agents, i. e. forwarding companies. However, in order to book a place on the ship and the container in which the goods will be loaded, it is necessary to contact the shipowner, i. e. the owner of the ship, or the company which charts the ship, i. e. it is its operator.

Air transport

Air transport is, however, nothing more than moving cargo by air. It allows very fast transportation of cargo between airports. The disadvantage of air transport is undoubtedly its cost, so it transports goods that are expensive or of short duration.

Air transport is by far the most modern and dynamically developing branch of transport. Air transport may be carried out by air agents who have an agreement with the IATA organisation.

There are many identical elements and stages in the organisation of the transport process of these two branches

In air transport, depending on the customer’s requirements, transport is usually performed under EXW conditions, i. e. the shipment is collected from the sender, then customs clearance is organized (if required), then the cargo is handed over at the air terminal in order to weigh, check the dimensions and content. Once the verification has been completed, the goods shall be delivered to the appropriate aircraft for delivery to the final destination.

The maritime transport of containers, however, regardless of the conditions of Incoterms, will consist of:

  • delivering a maritime container of a specific shipowner to the place of loading,
  • customs clearance of goods,
  • insurance of the goods,
  • weighing of the container according to the valid VGM/SOLAS regulation,
  • delivery to the specified port of consignment within the given deadline,
  • preparation of the sea waybill (bill of lading/BL)
  • sending the final documents to the client after the ship’s departure.

However, depending on the customer’s requirements, the above points can be modified.

Having the knowledge of the specifics, similarities and differences of these two branches of transport, it is worth looking at sea and air transport from the perspective of the price and weight of the transported goods.

Air transport charges

Charges for air transport include: airport costs such as screening and shipment checking, airport handling, issuing documents such as Air Way Bill (AWB), export clearance if the goods leave the European Union, delivery to the airport and, most importantly, air freight.

The basic factors that have a direct impact on the price of such a service are:

  • type and dimensions of the cargo carried,
  • timeliness of contract execution,
  • legal aid at all stages of transport,
  • in some cases, the escort of the cargo,
  • insurance and other factors depending on the characteristics of the cargo being carried.

A separate calculation is required for oversized shipments, which are quoted individually by the airlines.

Sea transport charges

Sea freight, on the other hand, is determined each time for the size of the container, the port of loading, the port of unloading and additional services that are ordered, such as customs clearance, container weighing or insurance of the goods and its properties, as indicated by the customer.

When air transport is used and when sea transport is used

Air transport is customarily used to: groupage, dangerous goods (DGR), high value shipments, perishable goods, heavy and oversized goods and goods requiring short delivery times.

It is worth knowing that a pallet with goods in a passenger plane should not exceed the dimensions: 300x230x158 cm and weight 4500 kg gross.

Maritime transport allows for much larger and heavier unit loads for one-off transport, and it does not matter whether the goods are neutral, dangerous, sensitive to various factors, or requiring refrigeration conditions. It is also worth mentioning that goods that do not fit into a standard container can also be transported in open top or flat track containers, which provide greater loading capacity.

Further consideration of maritime and air transport will be the subject of further articles that will appear on our website. We invite you to observe our expert advice department.


Tags: sea transport, air transport, containers
02 November 2017|