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Why is sea freight so much cheaper than air freight

Why is sea freight so much cheaper than air freight
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24 Dec 2020

Sea freight is always going to be the cheaper option when you move abroad, but when is it worth paying extra to fly your domestic goods to your new home?

When you’re looking at shipping options for an international move, one thing really stands out: air freight is much more expensive than sea freight – twelve to sixteen times, according to the World Bank. Why is that? And is the extra money worth paying?

Overcapacity in sea freight makes pricing more competitive

One of the reasons sea freight is cheaper than air freight is that there is more space on cargo ships than there is cargo to carry. So the supply of sea cargo capacity outweighs the demand for it – and when supply outweighs demand, prices drop.

Now you know why sea freight is cheaper than air freight, let’s compare the two services to find out whether you want to pay the extra price for air freight.

You get a faster service with air freight than with sea freight

Air freight is faster than sea freight. According to Movehub shipping your domestic goods from the UK to New Zealand by air takes one to three days; while by sea it’s thirty-one to thirty-six days.

With air freight you get more control over timings, too, and flights are more frequent than ship sailings. So if your air freight goods are delayed they can be put in the next flight in a few hours’ time. But cargo ships may leave once or twice a week, so delays by sea will be days, rather than hours.

If you are in a hurry to move your home abroad, then it might be worth paying extra for air freight. But if you’re booking ahead then you can save a lot of money by using sea freight. Note that you should book sea freight three to four months before your move date.

Sea freight is greener than air freight

Another big advantage of sea freight is it produces fewer carbon emissions, so it is more environmentally friendly.

If minimising your carbon emissions is important, then sea freight is the right choice for you.

Sea freight and air freight are equally safe

The vast majority of ships and aeroplanes arrive safely at their destinations, and there is not much difference between the two. Just make sure you get the goods you are moving professionally packed: professional packers will ensure that your goods don’t move around in transit.

Having said that, insuring your move will give you peace of mind and protect you in the unlikely event that the ship or plane carrying your goods is lost. It will also ensure you don’t have to foot the bill if your goods are damaged during loading and unloading. Bear in mind that your usual contents insurance won’t cover you when you’re moving home. You really do need specialist removals insurance. Make sure you get several removals insurance quotes when you plan your move – we’re here to help if you need a quick quote.

You can mix and match sea freight and air freight

Consider whether you’d be better off sending some of your items by sea and some by air. Items that you can’t wait for – such as the desktop computer you need to work, or your clothes – may be better transported by air.

Ask your removals company for advice if you have some domestic goods that you will want quickly at your destination.

We hope this post has helped you weigh up the benefits of air and sea freight.