Air freight versus sea freight – What should I choose?

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Choosing between Sea freight and Air Freight

Choosing between air and sea freight can be a tricky one for Amazon FBA sellers with no background in logistics. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Are you running out of stock soon? Do your goods have air restrictions? Is cost of high importance? To help you strike a balance between the two alternatives, we have put together a couple of key factors to consider.


How much are you willing to spend on shipping to Amazon’s warehouse?

If you ask which mode of transport that will cost you the least, you will most likely get the answer that shipping by sea is cheaper than shipping by air. This is however not always true, and depends on factors such as shipment weight, volume and HS code. Ocean freight usually starts to become a viable mode of transportation once you have a shipment larger than 2 cbm or 400Kg. The fixed costs related to sea freight is high when compared to air freight, making air freight a preferred option for smaller shipments.

Airlines charge according to the chargeable weight of a shipment, which is the largest of the volumetric weight and the gross weight. That’s because large items with a low weight take up more space on an aircraft than a small, heavy item. Sea carriers charge based on the size of a shipment (even if weight can factor into the price). A factor that affects the cost of containerized sea freight is whether the goods require a dedicated full container (FCL) or can be consolidated with other cargo (LCL). In case of the latter, your price is often determined by its volume in cubic meter.

To summarize: It is usually much cheaper to ship large or heavy shipments by sea. Smaller shipments on the other hand are usually better suited to be shipped by air.

How quickly do you need to have your goods stocked at the fulfillment center?

When it comes to speed, airfreight is, without a doubt, the fastest way to transport your products across long distances. Shipments by air to the Us can take from 3 15 days, depending ont he route you choose. To Europe, Air freight can take from 3-18 days, also depending on the rouute. Ocean Freight on the other hand can take everyhting from 27 dasy to 40 days to Noth America, and between 30-45 days to Europe.

How important is it that your cargo reaches your FBA warehouse in time?

When comparing the two, air freight tends to be the more reliable option for international mode of shipping. Airlines have daily departures between China and the rest of the world, while Ocean liners run on a weekly schedule. A one day delay in production can therefore lead to a one week delay in shipping, making ocean shipping more risky if time is of high importance.

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