Air Freight vs. Sea Freight: Things to Consider When Transporting Your Goods

Air Freight vs. Sea Freight: Things to Consider When Transporting Your Goods

0 October 06, 2017 0 Comments

Choosing to work with a freight forwarding service saves you more time and money transporting your goods from one location to another, which leaves you with more opportunities to focus on the quality of your goods. Businesses looking to ship their goods in bulk across large distances have two main options for transporting: air freight and sea freight.

The main difference between air freight and sea freight is simply that the latter is meant for heavier shipments, while the former is for lighter ones. Transporting by airplane, on the other hand, limits the quantity of goods that you can move in one shipment, and having all your goods moved by plane may require multiple flights.

Consolidation of Goods

When considering freight forwarding for goods that come in large quantities, you will most likely encounter this term at least once.

Consolidation is when a particularly large shipment is broken up into several smaller shipments, transported, and assembled at a drop-off point (usually a warehouse owned by a shipping company) after which it is transported via carrier vessel to the port of destination.  

Breaking up one large shipment into several smaller shipments makes them easier to move around, and is usually done for cargo transported on ships. However, this should not be a cause of concern for you, as your freight forwarding agent will keep track of where the cargo is going and who will be handling it from origin to destination.  

Sea Freight

Ships are good for transporting heavier goods in bulk, and shipping durable goods can be really cheap. This makes sea freight the cheapest option when transporting your goods either around Singapore

However, the main disadvantage of cargo vessels is that they can take longer to reach their destination, especially when shipping across countries. They are also more likely to be handled poorly unless registered under high priority, as well as be subjected to different kinds of hazards while at sea.

As with shipping procedures in Singapore, you will need to specify the kind of cargo being handled beforehand when consulting with your forwarding agent. More durable goods can be cheaper to transport, but certain goods, such as household chemicals, medicines, food items, or breakables, need to be registered as high priority cargo to preserve them.

Depending on the shipping line, cargo assigned to high priority can be charged fees that can be just as expensive as shipping by plane, if not more. For smaller, lighter, and more delicate goods that can degrade quickly, you might want to consider opting for air freight to transport them instead.

Air Freight

Transporting goods by planes can be faster and more convenient when shipping goods across countries, but has the drawback of being more expensive.

As planes are allowed a limited take-off and landing weight, shipping your goods via cargo plane are usually reserved for smaller shipments. Much of the cargo fee depends on the weight of what is being transported. Cargo that exceeds the weight limit will rack up additional overweight fees, and can be really expensive when assigned to high priority.

To ship by plane, consider the kind of cargo that you want to transport. If this cargo is lighter, smaller, and needs to be transported across the country more quickly, then air freight is the best way to go.

Land Freight

Although there are few freight services that transport goods by land, it is a quicker way to get them around when in Singapore. With the Lion City’s smaller land area compared to other countries, as well as the abundance of nearby ports and warehouses, this option is ideal for local freight.

Cargo Terms to Remember

There is a good amount of jargon used in the freight forwarding industry, which may confuse you should you not be familiar with them. Here are a few to bring you up to speed:

  • LCL (less than container load) – This mode is for when a cargo is consolidated in a warehouse and then shipped along with other cargo.
  • FCL (full container load) – In this mode, the goods are not broken down into separate shipments.
  • RORO (roll-on roll-off) – This mode is generally reserved for drivable cargo that is too big for most containers.
  • Heavy lift/Break-bulk/Project Cargo – Specialized requests for oversized cargo need specific details as well as the starting date in order to be processed and shipped.
  • High Priority/Low Priority Cargo – Cargo that is delicate or potentially hazardous (e.g., food, chemicals, medicines) should be assigned in an area in the vessel where they are the safest and are least likely to be subject to external hazards encountered during transportation.


When transporting goods either by sea or by air, these are the following requirements you should keep in mind:

  • the shipper’s full name and address,
  • full address of cargo location,
  • commodity details (i.e., dimensions, weight, name, description), and
  • Material Safety Data Sheet (a detailed informational document of the chemical prepared either by the manufacturer or the importer, typically required for potentially hazardous cargo)