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Door to Door Ocean Freight or Air Freight: Which One is the Right Option For Me?
When shipping cargo and goods across the globe, there are a number of considerations for you to make when picking your method. Companies of all sizes rely on freight shipping for their supply chain. From origin to destination, there are a number of steps freight shipments take and a few ways for them to travel. When dealing with international shipping services, either air freight or ocean freight must be used.

Door to door ocean freight shipping options can vary dramatically, depending on factors such as cost, timing, and size. Each of these options affects the reliability and environmental impact of your shipment as well.


The first and foremost deciding factor for most shippers is cost. Air shipments will be more expensive than sea freight. This is due to the fact that air freight has more demand and jet fuel is more expensive per shipment than ocean carriers. Additionally, airplanes have higher operational costs than ships.

Freight cost for air can be more than five times the cost of sea freight. For people with large supply chains, this may be an expensive method to rely on consistent shipments. Unless air travel is necessary, due to the content of the shipment or the needed date, this option will add up quickly.

Shipment Size

The size of your shipment may very well decide your shipping strategy for you. Standard air freight can be no larger than 96 x 125 in (2.44 x 3.15 m). That limits a lot of items by traveling by air. Of course, it is possible to ship items larger, but special arrangements have to be made.

Ocean freight allows you to move any amount of cargo. Ocean shipping occurs by means of shipping containers that can fit a lot of cargo. Even if you don’t have a full container load (FCL), you can always work with a freight forwarder who will combine your shipment with another that is less than a container load (LCL) also.


The fastest way to transport something is by air. Airfreight allows hotels, restaurants, high-volume companies, and businesses who work with sensitive materials to operate smoothly. While the premium on air freight might be high, some businesses require shorter transit times. Air freight shipping is fastest when its non-stop, but international routes or ones with many stops can take up to a week, depending on the selected shipping services.

An ocean shipment can take between a week and two months depending on its route, not including time in customs clearance which can take up to four days. This can work fine for businesses with steady supply chains for non-sensitive goods, such as consumer products, household goods, automotive parts, and more.

To get an idea of the difference, an air shipment from China to Los Angeles will take about five days, while an ocean shipment would take close to three weeks. Customs clearance and consolidation can add a few days to that delivery time.


Air travel is the most reliable method to ship something, since its fastest and most direct. While flights get delayed and postponed regularly, airlines are usually very quick to reschedule a new flight route, delaying the shipments only a matter of hours at best in most cases.

Ocean shipping schedules are far less rigid and therefore delays can be unexpected. While air shippers follow a more hour to hour schedule, ocean shippers tend to work on a weekly schedule, making possible delays longer. However, air transport might not always be possible, depending on the type and the size of the cargo.

An air shipment would take a few days to complete. Airplanes are unloaded immediately as they stick to a tight schedule and customs clearance can start soon after. Once the shipment is cleared, the cargo is free and can be loaded on a drayage carrier to make its way to its final destination.

Receiving a shipment by sea follows a different process. Upon arrival, ships are unloaded in turn, and a carrier can spend anywhere from a few hours to a few days at port. This would depend on the port, the amount of cargo to unload, as well the number of ships ahead in line.

Customs clearance can take up to a few days with ocean shipments, and also depends on the arrival port. If your shipment is an LCL load, it may be subject to additional delays by other cargo sharing your container if its paperwork, duty, and fees have not been sorted correctly.

Environmental Impact

Not all factors are time and cost-oriented. Another consideration to make when shipping your goods is environmental impact, and this can be more important to some shippers than others. If convenience is not your number one priority, then opting for ocean shipping will reduce the CO2 footprint of your shipment.

However, ocean shipping can result in oil spills, lost cargo, and disturbing the ecosystem. While this only occurs if something goes wrong, it can still have a significant impact on the environment. Some companies with heavy shipping volume may not place great importance on the environmental impact. However, more companies support social awareness of global warming and other environmental issues.

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Final Thoughts

When deciding how to ship your cargo across the world, cost and time can usually be strong determining factors. Your freight quote will change significantly between ocean and air freight.

While air freight will usually provide the quickest and most reliable option, costs can add up. Also, some items, depending on size and type, may not be eligible for air travel and would have to travel by sea. In addition, relying on air transport may contribute further to environmental issues.

Working with a reliable shipping partner can help you make better decisions about how to ship your cargo. A good freight forwarding service may help you find a new way to optimize your supply chain or recommend a more efficient mode of shipping.

At Asiana USA, we are experienced moving items all over the globe and finding efficient routes to do so. Call Asiana USA at 855-500-1808 to see how we can help you ship more effectively.

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