Air, sea or land: Sorting through your freight choices

-By Ofer Zeevy-

Freight forwarders, always looking to better balance their best route/best price choices, are constantly challenged by fluctuating rates, geopolitical crises and economic instabilities. The shipping industry is still dealing with such issues, as this supply chains forecast report shows.

Once they receive an RFQ from an importer or exporter, freight forwarders start searching for safe and efficient route/price solutions for the intended shipments; But with the various market complexities, figuring out such solutions and transforming them into a quote for the client, may turn out to be a tedious task filled with uncertainties.

One of the key roles of a freight forwarder is to master the pros and cons of each of the main shipping options: Air, sea or land. And once there is the understanding of the basic differences between the three, a freight forwarder can begin to figure out “why make such a specific choice for this specific shipment”.

What follows is a brief overview of the advantages and disadvantages of each of the freight choices.

Air Freight services: Fast, fairly safe but with high costs

It’s as simple as that: Air shipping will get goods delivered at the same day or the next day (depending on time zones or time differences) which makes it the fastest way to ship.

Airplanes can carry large volumes over long distances in the shortest amount of time, turning air freight into the most efficient way to ship goods. And most flights and airports are safe, barring only workers’ strikes which can delay the uploading or downloading of the carried goods.

However, speed comes with a fairly high cost, when compared with the other shipping options. But many clients still consider air transportation as their favorite mode, despite paying much higher fees for it.

Other shippers, though, show their concern when it comes to analyzing air transportation costs. The air leg increases their total landed costs by a lot; the added fuel charges and sometimes specific regulations only add to the bottom-line price; and then there are insurance expenditures or terminal’s operating costs which inflate what the client has to pay.

All of these considerations call for a supply chain’s careful planning and optimization, since the speed of the air freight mode may not be sufficient once costs exceed a certain limit.

Sea Freight services: Long lead times, fairly safe and cost-effective

Ocean freight present a somewhat opposite operation mode for carriage of goods than air freight transportation.

Moving goods internationally via sea is much slower than in the air and usually takes weeks, but it is a significantly more cost-effective operation mode. Sea freight is also considered fairly safe, although sometimes geopolitical problems hurt cargo ships and may cause damages and delays to the goods being transported.

Additional advantages to sea freight include the shipping of large or oversized goods, such as cars. Then there are bulk items, goods that are shipped in large quantities, and such that their transportation calls for a much longer lead times. The downside here is that clients must wait to receive such goods for much longer period of times, which sometimes lead them to incur losses.

Land: Delivery speed varies, fairly safe and cost-effective

The third and final freight mode of transportation, land, contains over-the-road as well as rail options.

Since most shipments include land legs of carriage at some point, whether in the pick-up or the delivery stage, and in larger land territories (India, to name one country) even cover the entire route, land plays a key part in every freight forwarder planning.

Land freight is considered fairly safe, although not without some problem areas such as traffic and roads’ conditions for over-the-road transportation and stations’ locations for rail. If roads are damaged or if stations are located far from where goods need to be uploaded, freight lead times may see delays.

Air, Sea or land: With Wisor AI's digital freight platform, making the best choices becomes easy

Freight forwarders seeking to quickly offer clients alternative routes and price solutions, can use Wisor AI’s digital supply chain platform.

By using our platform, which includes rate sheets from all major air, sea and land carriers, as well as the ability to add the freight forwarder’s own data, issuing quotes to clients is made faster and easier.

Book a demo with us and we’ll show you how our platform can assist you!
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