FREIGHT SOLUTION GUIDE – Sea freight v.s. Air freight

Many importers today must ask themselves what freight options do I have and what suits my need the best.

Depending on whether it is via Sea freight or Air freight, deciding which method for shipping is very important as costs, delivery time and complexity are crucial factors that will influence your product importation.

Here below we use the guide provided by Global Sources the leading B2B media company as reference to provide you with Freight solutions covering freight methods, container types and sizing and delivery times.


Pro: If your cargo volumes over 1 cbm and weights over 100kgs, sea freight will be the cheapest option for you.

Con: Slower delivery times (delivery time based on countries will be illustrated below).

In Sea freight there are two types of container selection: FCL & LCL.

FCL refers to full container loads and the whole container will be loaded with only your products.

LCL refers to less than container loads and with this option your products will be consolidated and loaded with other importers’ goods from the same port loading origin and destination.

*Note: if your goods volumes over 15 cbm then shipping FCL will be recommended because freight costs per unit will be lower compare to LCL.

For FCL shipping option you must consider the container size and dimensions:

Containers comes in 3 sizes: 20 foot, 40 foot and 40 foot high container.

The practical container capacity for each size is:

20 foot (28 cbm)

40 foot (56 cbm)

40 foot high (68 cbm)

The weight limit/restriction for each container is a maximum of 28000kg irrespective of container size.

Delivery Times

Approximate delivery times from a port in China:

  • Australia ~ 18 days
  • United Kingdom ~ 30 days
  • USA and Canada (West) ~ 20 days
  • USA and Canada (East) ~ 30 days
  • South Africa ~ 30 days

For destinations not listed here, please inquire with your forwarder.


Pro: If your cargo is high value (e.g. electronics) and has low volume (less than 1 cbm) or if they are urgent deliveries then air freight is faster and in most circumstances affordable than sea shipments.

Con: Higher costs compare to sea freight if your goods are more than 1 cbm

*Note: Some importers confuse SPEED COURIER with AIR FREIGHT.

Speed Courier is a “door to door” service through companies such as Fedex, TNT, UPS & DHL. Whereas, Air freight is similar to shipping in an LCL container given the transportation is arranged port to port (or airport to airport in this example). A forwarding agent will be required for air freight to handle customs clearance and arrange internal delivery to your door, but speed courier will not require a forwarding agent as the factory would have handled custom clearance and payment of duty & taxes at the point of delivery.

Between speed courier & air freight how do I decide which is best for me?

If you do not have a forwarding agent to handle the custom clearance and internal delivery then speed courier will be your most recommended delivery option via Air because it is not only easier for you but it is quicker than air freight. 

Speed courier is also the best and most economical option if your goods are less than 500kg.


We have compared different freight options and provided in-depth guide on how to find the best option for you, if you would like to learn more about weight calculations please refer to the original article by Global Sources.

Shipping and logistics for importers are not as complicated as you think, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to consult your sales, they will provide you a competitive cost advantage strategy for your business.


FREIGHT SOLUTION GUIDE – Sea freight v.s. Air freight