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Choosing an International Shipping Method

Posted on August 15, 2014, 09:19 AM, by Mike Sannitti under International Moving Services

When you move internationally, that usually means that you are traveling over the ocean to get to your new home.  Your belongings are also moving over the ocean. There are two shipping options to tackle this overseas problem. You can

 ship by air, using a plane, or by sea, using a boat. Each option has its own strengths and weaknesses so you need to determine what exactly you are looking for in your international shipping service before you can decide which one is the right option for you.


Sea shipping: Sea shipping is usually the cheaper option of the two, but not always. Generally the ships have 20 -foot or 40 -foot containers. If your shipment is smaller than that, you are charged by the volume of the shipment. International movers usually have set prices for the 20-foot and 40-foot containers. The larger containers are usually a little bit of a discount per size of the shipment. Weight is usually not considered a factor since huge shipping vessels can not be easily weighed down in the ocean.

Air shipping: Shipping by air is almost always more expensive than shipping by sea. Sometimes the cost can be several times more expensive. Air shipping is priced based on weight and volume, so heavier loads will cost more --airlines will spend more money on fuel to keep the plane airborne with heavier shipments. However, smaller shipments may be cheaper to ship by air.



Sea shipping: The containers and shipping deck of a seafaring shipping vessel are very large. Cars, trucks, and other large items can be shipped with relative ease. There are usually hundreds of shipments on one vessel. Unless you are shipping items that are bigger than the 40-foot container, you shouldn't have any issues.

Air shipping: Although there are some big shipping planes available, the size and weight of shipping by air is much more limited. It will be hard to find air shippers for larger loads, and there is only so much room in a plane for cargo. An average limit of mass for all of their shipments is about 80,000 kg.


Sea shipping: Sea shipping is usually very slow. You also need to factor in additional time if your current or future home is a great distance from any major seaport. Traveling by sea is always slow, but these cargo ships tend to make many stops at different ports and yours may not be the first on their list. Sea shipments may take anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months to arrive at their destination.

Air shipping: Air shipping is much faster than sea shipping; sometimes 30 times faster. You can get an international air shipment at your new home in only a day or two. The longest an air shipment can reasonably take is a week or two. This makes air shipping a necessity for anyone who is looking to use the items in their shipment immediately after an international move.


Sea shipping: Sea shipping is usually reliable. Many freight forwarders offer tracking services that let you know where your shipment is as it travels to its destinations. Storms at sea could delay the shipment and it is very unlikely, but possible, that the ship could get damaged and need to dock somewhere to get repaired. The length of time and the number of stops for most sea shipments can lead to many more chances for accidents to happen. However, the ships are sturdy and the routes are well planned, so accidents are rare and if there is a delay, it generally won't be much more than a few days. However, month long delays are not unheard of.

Air shipping: Air shipping's reliability lies in its speed. It is much more likely that bad weather or other mishaps could delay a flight, but since the whole process happens so quickly, the delay of a day or two seems inconsequential compared to any type of delay that may happen to a sea shipment. The shorter travel time and fewer stops of most cargo planes also leave less chances for mistakes or mishaps to happen.

Environmental impact

Sea shipping: Sea shipping is usually environmentally safe. Some cargo freighters do release some air pollution, but it is much less than what a cargo plane will emit. There is a small chance of an oil spill, which would be a huge ecological disaster, but for the most part sea shipping has relatively little environmental impact.

Air shipping: Despite the shorter transport times, the amount of fuel burned and released into the atmosphere by a cargo plane is much more substantial than any pollution any boat would produce under normal circumstances. This may be the quicker option, but it is less environmentally friendly.

The verdict

Smaller shipments that need to get to the destination quicker are good to ship by air. If you are worried about the environment, cost, and need to ship larger items, sea shipping is for you. The biggest difference between air and sea shipping is the time factor. Usually you pay for that speed with extra cost and a bigger carbon footprint. It really depends on your personal needs and the size of your shipment.

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