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Should I use Sea Freight for my Business?

January 2020

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There a number of options when it comes to shipping for your business, and each of these suit different kinds of businesses and different kinds of cargo. Yes, they ultimately do the same thing and take your goods from one destination to another, but they all work in different ways.

Sea freight is one of the oldest forms of transportation, but despite solutions such as road and air freight making waves, it still firmly holds its place in the shipping industry and continues to be the perfect option for many businesses.

What kind of cargo is best suited to sea freight?

Because there are so many different types of containers, sea freight lends itself perfectly to almost all kinds of consumer goods. For example, flexitank containers (containers with a flexible tank inside) are used to transport non-hazardous liquid. Insulated and refrigerated containers can be used to maintain the temperature of the goods inside so are often used by the food, pharmaceutical and biotech industries.

Generally speaking, shipments weighing over 100kg are suited to sea freight, so it’s ideal for large items such as furniture or vehicles. Also, you’ll face less restrictions with what can be moved using sea freight compared to air freight. Air freight is subject to high security and checks, but sea freight – although still very secure – is a little more relaxed in this aspect. It’s important however that your cargo is labelled properly so that it is transported in the most appropriate way, such as frozen or refrigerated items being put into insulated containers, as mentioned above.

Sea freight is cost effective

Sea freight is usually charged per container, unlike air freight charges which are calculated on a chargeable weight basis. If you were to transport large quantities of heavy goods via air freight, you’d be looking at quite an expensive bill – not to mention that there’s limited space on an aircraft. In these instances, sea freight will be your most cost-effective and efficient solution.

It’s important to note however, that there are quite a few additional costs associated with sea freight, aside from the cost of the goods and the amount charged by the shipping company to move them. You need to consider the charges added for duties and taxes, as the goods pass through customs processes on their way to the UK. The same charges apply with air freight, but duty and VAT can be less expensive when using sea freight. That’s because it is calculated as a percentage cost of the cost of goods, plus the freight and insurance charges. .

Some of the costs of importing using sea freight depend on where in the world your goods are coming from. For instance if you’re importing from within the EU, you’ll typically find that your costs are lower as there won’t be any import duty to pay.

Any other benefits?

Specialist operators can ship goods from more or less anywhere in the world using sea freight. No matter how big your shipments, sea freight companies can usually accommodate your needs. And even if you’re shipping small loads, these can be grouped together with other cargo to fill one container, which is called LCL (less than container load) and can mean lower costs due to sharing the transportation service.

Sea freight is also by far the most environmentally friendly form of shipping compared to others – particularly air freight. Ships produce fewer grams of exhaust gas emissions for each ton of cargo transported than any other shipment method. With technology advancing, these low emissions are only getting lower with new ships coming into use and liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered options being utilised.

Downsides to sea freight

If you’re working to a tight time constraint, you’ll need to be aware that sea freight can take a while. When importing products from China by air freight, it can take less than three days to reach the UK but with sea freight, transporting the same cargo can take up to 35 days, depending on the specific routings.

There are a number of things that can cause delays with sea freight. This could be anything from a supplier missing a port delivery time, to poor weather conditions, to challenges with local customs. Don’t let this put you off though. If sea freight is looking like your most suitable option and you have time on your side, just plan ahead and arrange your shipment well in advance to make room for any possible hold-ups. We advise you to allow a week at either end to clear customs, plus your actual shipping time.

If you’d like to know more about how sea freight could work for your business and your shipments, contact us today. We’ve been providing excellent services in worldwide logistics for almost 50 years, proving ourselves to be a reputable and reliable freight forwarder.

Our experienced staff and in-house IT capability allow us to offer a first-class service in all areas of global logistics. If you’re in the UK, give us a call on 0 845 6216 11 or drop us an email at If you’re in the USA, call us on +1 757 306 1211 or email us at Alternatively, you can request a quote.


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