Sea Freight wether or not a reasonable choice?

Some companies of sea freight have been forced to halt operations at container terminals in Durban, Ngqura, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, Bloomberg reported, citing a note that Transnet sent to customers.

New data from Alphaliner shows that capacity deployed on liner services to and from Africa is now 6.5% lower than one year ago. Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC), for example, has shifted some 13,000 teu ships from African trading to the Pacific.

Other routes such as intra-Asia and to Oceania and Latin America are also seeing less coverage this year too, but nowhere has seen a greater drop in liner calls than the continent of Africa.

However,there are three main modes of freight transportation being utilised by individuals and companies around the world today. These are air, land and sea freight and they manage to account for the billions of tonnes of cargo shipped across the globe, annually.

  1. Economical 
    Hands down, the ocean shipping industry offers the most competitive freight costs to shippers, especially over long distances. By comparison, some estimates show that ocean freight shipping costs are generally four to six times less expensive than air. With statistics like this one, it is easy to argue that ocean transportation is the cheapest international shipping option. 
  2. Efficiency 
    No matter the size of your shipments, sea freight companies can usually accommodate your needs. Smaller shipments can be grouped together with other cargo to fill a container, allowing for cost-sharing of the transportation services. Larger cargo can fill one or more containers, offering shippers unmatched bulk options. In fact, vessels are the ideal way to move high volumes of cargo as they are designed to carry large amounts of goods or raw materials. 
  3. Oversized, heavy and bulky cargo capability 
    A major advantage of sea freight shipping is shipping companies’ ability to handle oversized, heavy or bulky cargo – often referred to as breakbulk or Not in Trailer (NIT) loads. Such cargo could include large vehicles, equipment, construction materials and more. Oftentimes too heavy or large for air freight or even over-the-road transportation, very large cargo is not a problem on many shipping vessels. 
  4. Safety 
    Ships are designed to carry hazardous materials and dangerous cargo safely. The industry is well-versed in the handling of such goods and has regulations in place to ensure the safety of the vessel, crew, cargo and environment. Cargo loss caused by incidents during transportation is continually dropping as maritime safety increases, and has dropped significantly in the past decade. Containers are designed to be sealed and locked during transportation for extra security. 
  5. Environmental friendliness 
    When compared to sea shipping, air and many other forms of transportation have much higher carbon footprints – a definite disadvantage for the environment. Ships, on the other hand, provide the most carbon-efficient mode of transportation and produce fewer grams of exhaust gas emissions for each ton of cargo transported than any other shipment method. These already-low emissions continue to trend downward as technology advances, new ships come online and as liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered options are utilized.

The cons of maritime shipping

Now it’s time to talk about the cons of maritime shipping. Depending on the situation, the advantages we’ve discussed sometimes won’t suffice, as these cons could make you choose another form of shipping.

Maritime cargo transportation is slow

If you need to transport your goods quickly, then maritime shipping will prove to be far worse for your needs than air shipping. Vessels usually have a long way to travel and they’re much slower than aircrafts. In a situation where an aircraft would transport your goods in a day or two, a ship would need an entire month to do so (and that is if there are no delays). While the situation is improving and maritime shipping is becoming faster, if you need fast shipping – vessels won’t do.

The key here is in deciding whether faster shipping will bring you more profit. If a much slower transportation speed won’t negatively influence the profits, then opting for much more affordable maritime shipping seems like the right thing to do.

Ocean freight services can suffer from delays

However, keep in mind that ocean freight shipping options can sometimes make your customers unsatisfied, as they’re not as reliable as air shipping options. Namely, ships operate on weekly schedules and different problems often occur. There’s always a good chance that your deliveries will be delayed. And your customers definitely won’t be pleased with that. While you will save some money if you opt for maritime shipping, you better learn how to communicate bad news to your customers

While their goods won’t get damaged, the possible delays will sometimes make your customers choose another supplier. However, if you don’t have a strict deadline and you don’t need to transport the goods very quickly, then maritime shipping could be the best option for you.