Description of sea freight and container freight

What is sea transportation?

Sea transportation is the most common mode of transportation for importers and exporters. In fact, 90% of the goods are transported by sea and sea. Other international freight modes (express, standard air, express air) are relatively fast, but the price is also more expensive. Smaller shipments and high-value products usually adopt other modes.

If sea transportation is too slow, but air transportation is too expensive, some freight forwarders now provide relatively new services, commonly known as expedited freight. This service is usually almost as fast as air transportation, but its cost is more like sea transportation. Its working principle is to simplify the shipping process, only combined with faster shipping service and high-quality freight service.

Why do you choose sea transportation over other modes of transportation?

Capacity and value – one container can hold 10000 beer bottles! Sea freight is cheaper. According to experience, any cargo weighing more than 500 kg is too expensive for air transportation. For light goods, please use this chargeable weight calculator to calculate whether your goods are charged by actual weight or dimensional weight.

Less restrictions – International Law, national laws, carrier organization regulations and individual carrier regulations all play a role in defining and limiting which goods are considered dangerous for transportation. In general, more products are restricted to air cargo rather than ocean shipping, including gas (such as light bulbs), all inflammable substances (e.g. perfume, Samsung Galaxy Note 7), toxic or corrosive substances (such as batteries), magnetic materials (such as loudspeakers). Oxidants and biochemical products (e.g. chemicals) and public health risks (e.g. untanned hides). For details, see the hazardous materials table.

Emissions – compared with air transport, carbon dioxide emissions from freight transport by sea are insignificant. For example, according to this study, transporting 2 tons of 5000 km by sea will lead to 150 kg of carbon dioxide emissions, while the carbon dioxide emissions of air transportation will be 6605 kg.

What is the downside of shipping?

Speed – the aircraft is about 30 times faster than the ocean Express; Passenger planes cruise at 575 miles an hour, while slow-moving ocean liners travel at 16-18 miles an hour. Therefore, air cargo from China to the United States usually takes at least 20 days than sea cargo.

Reliability – port congestion, customs delays and bad weather conditions usually add more shipping days than shipping. So far, there are more tracking technologies in air transportation than in sea transportation. This means that sea transportation is easier to misplace than air transportation. This is especially true when shipping is smaller than container loading. In other words, in order to compete with air transportation, sea transportation is slowly becoming more reliable.

Protection – sea transportation is more vulnerable to damage or destruction than air transportation. That’s because it takes longer in transit because ships are more vulnerable to movement. But don’t worry too much about the cargo falling off the ship. The city myth says it loses 10000 a year, but it’s more like 546 of the 120 million containers in drinks a year. Piracy is less likely. Hot spots in recent years include the horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea and the Strait of Malacca. For more information about marine insurance, please check our page about cargo insurance.

Select container consolidation or whole container transportation?

Shipping is divided into two options: a full container loading (FCL) and a smaller than container loading (LCL). Using LCL, several goods are loaded into one container. This means that freight forwarders need to do more work, additional paperwork, and physical work to merge various goods into containers before major transportation and to dissolve the goods at the other end. This makes LCL have three disadvantages over FCL:

LCL takes more time to ship than FCL. Freightos freight team usually recommends allowing an additional week or two,

Increased risk of damage, dislocation and loss caused by LCL.

LCL prices are higher. In the experience of freightos’ Freight team, the main transportation cost is about twice the cost per cubic meter.

If it is feasible to consider introducing larger cargo, the critical point for upgrading from LCL to FCL (the minimum size container is 20 feet) is about 15 cubic meters.

How to know the shipping rate?

With the exception of particularly heavy goods, most LCL goods are priced according to the quantity of goods rather than by weight.

For most products, use these rules of thumb to choose the most cost-effective model:

Goods weighing more than 500 kg become uneconomical by air. The sea freight is about 50 cents / kg, and the freight between China and the United States takes about 30-40 days. It is about US $4 per kilogram. The Sino US loading capacity is between 150 kg and 500 kg. It can be transported by air economically. It takes about 8 to 10 days. Express air transport is a few days faster, but it’s more expensive. Packages lighter than 150 kg can be delivered economically by express (express freight). It is about $6 per kilogram, and it will take about 3 days for China and the United States to ship. Please use this chart for products with higher value per ton of goods. It is based on recent quotations and freight rates in the freightos market.

Common sea freight:

Expect to see these items on shipping quotations and invoices:

Customs security surcharge (AMS, ISF)

Container terminals (these are consolidated charges and only LCL is applied)

Terminal handling fee (Port Authority charge)

Customs broker

Pick up and delivery


Surcharges (fuel surcharges, handling of hazardous materials, storage, etc.)

Route charges (e.g. Panama Canal, Alameda corridor)