Business owners are continuously weighing up the pros and cons of each transport mode with an objective to achieve economical and efficient shipping with each transaction. In addition, factors such as transit time, product type (high value vs low value, hazardous vs non-hazardous), accessibility, cargo volume, and replenishment cycles need to be considered before business professionals choose an air freight or sea freight service. Industry knowledge and awareness about the impact these factors have on your business allows Operations and Logistics solutions Managers to select either an air freight or a sea freight forwarding service. If fast availability, high security and reliability are the priority, international air freight services are the common choice of transportation.

Read on to learn about the advantages of international air freight services and how to approach the analysis whether this is the ideal service for your business.

First things first: Review your product and supply chain

In order to decide on the correct mode of transport, you first have to ask yourself a number of questions. As a business owner, you might be able to easily answer them yourself. As the Operations or Logistics Manager, we recommend to have a team meeting and include everybody who deals with the imported/exported goods and the logistics of it. Some questions to discuss include:

  1. What are the measurements and weight of the goods you would like to import or export?
  2. Do you know the volumetric weight of the goods? See next paragraph for more information
  3. What is the usual quantity of goods you would like to import or export?
  4. What is the value of the goods?
  5. How well can you manage delays in shipments?
  6. How frequently do you ship the goods?
  7. How much time ahead can you plan shipments?
  8. Do you frequently have an unpredictable rise in demand for goods that you just cannot plan ahead?

Why weight is not just weighted in air freight

In sea freight the chargeable weight is quite clear – the goods are weighed and mostly put into a 20” or 40” container if they don’t exceed the maximum weight limit. In air freight, it’s not that simple. There are two different weight measurements that need to be considered – the actual weight and the volumetric weight. Because of the limited space on aircraft, the weight cannot just be depending on the heaviness. If a product is high in volume but fairly light the volumetric weight will be used to calculate the price. Just think of a tonne of rocks vs a tonne of wool. For more information and how to calculate volumetric weight see this page.

1) The adequate costs of a premium service like air freight

Keeping the costs low in order to make the product economical is probably an objective of most businesses, if not all. Sea freight is commonly known as the cheaper option for international freight. But this cannot be generalised and is influenced by various factors. If you have goods of high value, low quantity, the frequency of shipments may be unpredictable and product availability requires a fast turn-around then international air freight would be your choice. Other cost components like transportation, storage, detention and demurrage are impacted if the transportation medium is not being utilised carefully. Have you considered the steps before take-off and after arrival? Since lead times are short and quantities and/or volumes often lower your goods may not need any warehousing. Airports may be positioned closer to the point of departure and place of arrival. Take a look at your supply chain and it may reveal even further reasons to use international air freight.

2) Importing / Exporting cargo fast and secure

When it comes to fast, on-time shipping, air freight cannot be beaten. With average lead times between two days and a week compared to at least a month in sea freight, the advantage is obvious. These days pretty much every single aircraft, also passenger airplanes carry industrial goods. Considering that there have never been as many aircraft in business like today with numbers constantly increasing lead times can be kept to a minimum.
On top of that, you can positively influence the timeliness of your shipment by providing complete and accurate documentation. CAT (complete-accurate-timely) documentation is an industry process that guarantees hassle-free and timely deliveries. The processing of documentation does take a considerable amount of time. Having everything complete and prepared will give you an extra head start.

Adding to that, shipping by air offers a higher level of security. For one, safety controls at airports are very high. Further, there are fewer points of contact and this minimises the risk of damages.

3) High reliability securing a continuous flow of cargo

I mentioned the timeliness of aircraft and the high amount of departures every single day with numbers increasing. Most goods can be transported on any aircraft, no matter if passenger or cargo. On top of that flight schedules are out months or sometimes even a year ahead which allows planning in both ways; in advance and short-term. Even if goods don’t make it on one aircraft – the next one is soon to take off keeping delays to a minimum.

4) Reduced packaging requirements in air freight

Goods shipped via sea freight face various environmental elements for a long period of transit, especially shipments to Australia. Consider this: a container may leave the European winter, goes south along the west coast of Africa, passes the Cape of Hope towards Southeast Asia and then heads to the Australian summer. Or it might pass the Suez Canal instead. Either way, a significant amount of packaging is needed to keep goods safe from alternating temperatures, humidity or wetness and other influences. Air freight shipments do not require that amount of packaging and will be stored in lightweight containers what again saves time and costs.

Please note: Batteries on aircraft

To make sure your cargo arrives on time I do want to highlight in particular batteries. With recent incidents and changes, batteries have become a very sensitive topic. If not necessary, try to exclude batteries from your air shipments.

If you do need to ship batteries with your goods always highlight their specifications to your freight forwarder before importing/exporting so they can be checked with the airlines. These days, different airlines seem to have different requirements which are why we cannot highlight enough to inform the freight forwarder in order to avoid your goods being detained by security or even returned.

Though the advantages of air freight have been highlighted above, it very much depends on your business to decide on the ideal mode of transportation. By saying that, it may even be a good mix of modes that allow you to get the best value. To get the most bang out of the buck, we recommend to thoroughly analyse all components of the supply chain and plan well ahead.

An experienced international freight forwarder can assist with choosing the ideal logistics solution for your company based on your requirements. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for further questions.

For more than a century, BCR has continued to help small, medium and large businesses achieve an optimum logistics solution with warehousing and transportation, including air freight and sea freight services to and from the major ports including BrisbaneSydneyMelbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle (Perth).