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Compare international modes of transport: Sea freight and Air freight

International modes of transport play an important role in connecting countries and promoting global economic development. In which, sea freight and air freight are two types that account for a large proportion in international freight transport. Sea is the old and traditional way, while air represents convenience and speed. These two modes have distinct characteristics and meet different transportation needs.

In this article, let’s explore and compare the difference between ocean and air freight in international freight. We will learn about the advantages and limitations of each method. Along with important factors such as cost, speed, transportability and environmental impact. From there, you can make smart and effective decisions when choosing the right type of international transportation.

Mode of transport: Sea freight and Air freight

Sea freight

Sea freight is the most traditional and popular method of international freight. Seaway provides the ability to transport large and heavy goods, while ensuring the stability and safety of the goods. Cargo ships can carry hundreds or thousands of containers, helping to optimize transportation costs. In addition, sea transport has the ability to connect seaports around the globe, opening up vast trade opportunities and creating economic links between countries. However, ocean freight often takes longer than air freight and can face weather obstacles or complicated customs procedures.

Vận tải biển có chi phí thấp nhưng thời gian giao hàng chậm
Sea freight has low cost but slow delivery time

Air freight

Air freight, on the other hand, is known for its high speed and flexibility. The development of the aviation industry has reduced freight times from weeks to hours and even minutes. This is useful for time-sensitive goods such as medical goods, fresh flowers or goods with a short shelf life. Air freight is also very useful in transporting goods between distant countries, overcoming geographical barriers. However, air freight has limited capacity to carry large goods, and transportation costs are often higher than by sea.

Vận tải hàng không có thời gian giao hàng nhanh nhưng giá thành lại cao
Air freight has a fast delivery time but the high cost

Compare sea freight and air freight


  • Objective: Both sea freight and air freight are aimed at the international transportation of goods from one point to another globally.
  • Regulations: Both methods are subject to international shipping regulations and standards. Including regulations on goods safety, import and export documents and customs procedures.
  • Links to the supply chain: Both ocean freight and air freight are important parts of the global supply chain. These types play a role in connecting countries, contributing to promoting import-export activities and international trade.
  • Technology and information management: Both modes depend on technology and information management systems to track and manage the shipping process. Warehouse management, cargo tracking and related information systems play an important role in this international mode of transport.
  • Environmental Impact: Both ocean freight and air transport have some degree of environmental impact. However, thanks to technological improvements, both modes are gradually improving efficiency and reducing carbon emissions during transportation.


Element Sea freight Air freight
Cargo Suitable for large, heavy goods, no need for urgent delivery Suitable for light, high-value, urgent goods
Speed Longer shipping times, from days to weeks Fast shipping time, from a few hours to a few days
Weight Capable of carrying large cargo, up to thousands of containers There is a limit on cargo weight, depending on the aircraft type
Freight Usually lower than air freight Higher than sea freight
Reliability Less affected by weather than aviation. However, the time to change the schedule is often quite long because the number of ships that sail weekly is relatively small. Much affected by weather: rain, storm. However, the change of schedule is more sensitive than by sea because there are many flights.
Procedure The customs procedures are complicated and take a long time The procedure is simple and fast

Choosing the right international mode of transport: sea freight or air freight?

When choosing the right international mode of transport, there are many important factors that need to be considered.

One of them is the type of goods to be transported. If the goods are in large volume, large in size and do not need to be urgent, sea freight can be a good choice. With its large cargo capacity and often lower costs, ocean freight is suitable for large-scale freight transport.

However, if the goods are small in volume, high in value and urgently needed, air freight may be a more suitable choice. Air freight is faster, helping to meet delivery time requirements and ensure goods reach their destination in a short time.

Nên chọn vận tải đường biển hay vận tải hàng không?
Should choose sea freight or air transport?

In addition, the cost factor should be considered. Sea freight usually costs less than air freight. However, if time and speed are of the essence, air freight may be worth considering despite its higher cost.

Other factors also include reliability, procedural and legal restrictions. Air freight is usually more reliable and simpler than sea freight. However, sea freight may face obstacles in terms of customs clearance.

In short, when transporting goods to other countries, it is necessary to put on the balance to compare international modes of transport. By assessing the whole and prioritizing the important factors, we can make a decision to choose the type that suits our needs.

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