All about the sea freight advantages and disadvantages.

All about the sea freight advantages and disadvantages.

Without container shipping, our world would be a very different place, because raw materials, goods and merchandise of all kinds would inevitably not be available to the extent they usually are. It is true that goods can also be transported by truck, train or even plane, but by far not over such long distances and in such large quantities as with a container ship.

  • This is a major advantage of sea freight: it offers huge transport capacities and is much cheaper than the previously mentioned means of transport.

Before we go into detail about the advantages and disadvantages of sea freight, let’s take a brief look at sea freight and container shipping in general. This will ensure that you fully understand the later explanations on the advantages and disadvantages of sea freight. As a small teaser in advance: At least in terms of cost, ocean freight is far superior to other means of transport.$

Things to know about container shipping and sea freight

Everyone is familiar with pictures of ports and container ships: by now, the largest container ships are up to 400 m long and a proud 62 m wide, and of course offer plenty of space for sea freight of all kinds. Even though container ships tend to get bigger and bigger, there are also shipyards that continue to produce smaller ships – and for good reason.
Container ships often travel long routes from Asia to Europe or the USA and usually have to follow coastlines. So it’s no surprise that the distance traveled is far longer than the distance as the crow flies, which is often used as a measure. As industrialization continued to grow, the potential of shortcuts was recognized early on. The Panama and Suez Canals, for example, were built at great expense. Container ships can save up to 15,000 km of distance (and time) through the Panama Canal and around 8,000 km through the Suez Canal.

  • However, these canals are only navigable for ships of a certain size in terms of construction technology, so that today small, suitable ships are also deliberately built. Ships of the Panamax class, for example, are built in such a way that they can just pass through the canal without any problems.

Incidentally, container ships are loaded with so-called standard containers. A standard container has a length of around 20 feet and is therefore about 6 meters long and 2.4 meters wide. In English, such a container is called a “Twenty foot equivalent unit (TEU)” and the capacity of container ships is also specified in the number of TEUs that can be loaded. However, not only these containers are usually used, but also the “Forty foot equivalent units (FEUs)”, which are twice as large.

  • The largest ship currently in service, for example, has a capacity of almost 24,000 TEUs, i.e. 24,000 (!) containers.

Such containers are provided either by companies themselves or by transport service providers. For easy transport to and from a port, they are compatible with trucks or freight cars. Loading and unloading in modern ports rarely takes longer than 48 hours.

So, before we now turn to the sea freight advantages and disadvantages in detail, let’s keep in mind that unimaginably large capacities would be available or possible for sea freight.

To the advantages of sea freight

We at ECL Kontor are of course very familiar with sea freight and everything that goes with it. But to make sure that we don’t hide anything from you as a customer, we will of course also go into the disadvantages of sea freight after this section – weighed up fairly and transparently. But now to the advantages of sea freight at a glance:

  • With 20- and 40-foot containers, ocean freight offers the necessary capacity for transporting large quantities or particularly large goods. Thanks to standardized containers, these are ideal for handling as part of other logistics processes.
  • By means of sea freight, large quantities can be transported over long distances at low cost. Due to the large capacity of container ships and the comparatively efficient transport, the costs for sea freight are by far the most favorable – although, of course, ancillary transport costs must also be taken into account.
  • Even though sea freight is a closed book for many people, its use is open to everyone. Experienced service providers like ECL Kontor help inexperienced users in every respect
  • Many container ships operate on fixed routes, so the shipping route can be planned very reliably. Due to the often weeks-long voyages, delays can occasionally occur, so that at least a small buffer should be calculated in.

Regarding prices, it should be noted that they are rising at the moment, as the balance between import and export between Europe and China is lost. This limits container capacity in China, as there are more containers in Europe than in China. So there is an imbalance between the availability of containers in Asia and the high demand, as people are often left with few options other than to order, which has risen sharply, especially during the Corona Lockdown. However, despite the rising prices, transportation by ocean freight remains the most affordable mode of transportation.
Moreover, with an experienced service provider like ECL Kontor, the cost of sea freight is predictable. Based on your needs, we will make you an offer that includes all costs.
In the next section we will now – as promised – look at the disadvantages of sea freight.

On the disadvantages of sea freight

From our professional point of view, sea freight offers only advantages in most cases. Nevertheless, we would also like to show you when or under which circumstances sea freight can have disadvantages for you. Possibly, after reading this article, you already have an idea what these might be:

  • Sea freight is not recommended if a good has to be delivered from A to B as quickly as possible. Container ships are often several weeks away and therefore not suitable for urgent or short-term deliveries. In intercontinental traffic, (express) air freight should be used in this case, but this is considerably more expensive.
  • The same applies to tightly calculated delivery deadlines. A delayed arrival as well as an early arrival is possible at any time due to the incalculable influences during the journey. Experienced users of sea freight, such as online stores, therefore deliberately do not give too precise a delivery date, but instead give probable delivery periods.

In general, however, it can be stated that the advantages of sea freight clearly outweigh the disadvantages. Only under certain circumstances the use of other shipping methods is also recommendable from our point of view. For more detailed information, ECL Kontor is also available to you personally at any time. Get in contact with us!

ECL Kontor is an international logistics company established in 2004 with roots in customs clearance and transport organisation.


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