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What is Sea Freight & Why Use it?

It is the 21 st century now. The world functions on trade, there is nothing that happens without the transportation of goods and services around the world. The world today is more interconnected than ever, you never know if that  gadget you are holding, the food you are eating, or the clothes you are wearing are coming from manufacturers in your country or are sourced from other countries. 

Today well over 90 percent of world trade is carried out through sea. There are huge benefits of transportation to the manufacturers, sea routes have made the transportation of large loads of goods from one end of the world to the other end safe and efficient.

Sea freight is one of the most affordable ways for transportation of goods. It is okay to have some questions regarding sea freight, and in this article, we will tell you all you need to know about sea freight, its process, and more. Let’s get started!

What is Sea Freight? 

Sea freight is a shipping method used by businesses to transport large amounts of goods overseas by sea using cargo ships. Since it’s cost-effective, most businesses prefer to use this mode of transportation, when they have to move a huge quantity of goods.

Sea freight is distinct from traditional modes of goods transportation as ideally large loads of good, or heavy machinery is shipped through Sea freight. 

In Sea freight, goods are transported in large metal containers (You must’ve probably seen one if you have been to a seaport). There are fewer restrictions imposed on sea freight. Sea freight is also used to transport several crucial commodities for a country, like Oil, Defence Equipment, and Aircraft.

Like other modes of transportation, sea freight too involves seller (manufacturer), buyer, ocean carriers, freight forwarders, brokerage, port authority, and insurance providers.

How does Sea Freight work? 

Sea freight is one of the most important parts of a supply chain. While moving goods through sea freight, you need to first contact a shipping company. These are big companies and are easier to contact. 

Once you come in contact with these shipping companies, you need to instruct them about your product and the weight of your load, the type of goods you want them to transport, and from where you want them to pick up the goods. If you want to send your goods to the shipping company, you can do that too, or just pay a small fee and get your goods picked up from your supplier or from your address easily.

The logic behind the transport of only huge loads is simple, a shipping container is huge enough to transport tonnes of goods, and cannot be used to transport small quantities of goods due to the cost.

Who uses sea freight?

Sea freight in layman’s terms is used by people who want to import and export goods from and to other countries around the world. You should be transporting heavy loads of goods to be using sea freight, sea freight is the only ideal for heavy loads of goods since it is time-consuming and unsafe for small goods.

What are the different types of cargo shipped through the sea?

Usually, most of the goods can be shipped using ocean freight. But still, you need to consult and confirm with your freight forwarder or shipping agent. If your goods weigh more than 100 kgs, then you should opt for sea freight. 

Bear in mind that there are restrictions to shipping some goods via sea freight. Goods that are dangerous, perishable, and sensitive have to be transported via special containers specifically designed to transport these kinds of goods. Make sure that you’re shipping agents knows what you are shipping. 

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Sea Freight?

Where there are advantages of something, there are some disadvantages too, here are some of the pros and cons of sea freight:

Advantages of sea freight

  • Cost Effective 

Compared to other modes of transportation, sea freight is hands down the most cost-effective option available to businesses looking to transport huge quantities of goods. Sea freight is four to six times less expensive than air freight since tax duty, and VAT for sea freight is cheaper than air.

A shipping vessel carries literally unrealistic quantities of goods in one go, making it cheaper for everyone.

  • Best for Heavy Cargo

Heavy or bulky cargo, like large vehicles, machinery, industrial parts, construction materials, etc, can be handled and shipped easily through sea freight which is not the case for air freights. You cannot transport heavy and bulky cargo in planes, while ships can carry all kinds of heavy items.

  • Safety

Ships can transport hazardous cargo safely without any issues as. The shipping crew is well trained in handling such cargo and has regulations to ensure the safety of the vessel cargo and environment. The containers are well sealed and locked for extra security, and the crew members inspect the cargo regularly during transit.

  • Environment Friendly

Shipping has a very low carbon footprint as they consume less fuel than other transportation modes, making it much more eco-friendly than other shipping methods. 

Disadvantages of sea freight

  • Time Consuming

Sea freight is a time-consuming mode of transportation since it takes a lot of time than other freight options. For goods that are smaller and more important, Sea freight is clearly not an ideal mode of transportation, as it can take days, weeks, or even months to get goods delivered.

  • More chances of damage

Since it takes a lot of time from shipping to delivery, the risks associated with sea freight are also higher. There might be significant delays, and bad weather can cause damage or loss to the cargo.

  • Lesser Connectivity

Certain parts of the world might not have shipping ports, and terminals and might not receive large ships carrying containers. The lack of facilities can heavily impact the delivery of the goods.

How Long Does Sea Freight Take?  

In ideal conditions, sea freight can take anywhere from 1 to 8 weeks depending upon the distance and other factors.

But still, there are many factors that influence the time taken to deliver the cargo via shipping. Going through customs on both ports, the weather during the transit all affects the time needed to move the goods by sea.

The location is a major factor in transit time since some places are far away than others places. The other factors are the type of goods, the required documentation, weather, and carrier. There can also be additional and unexpected delays during the process.

If you plan to ship your goods for a specific holiday or sales season, make sure that you add at least a week’s time on both ends of the process to be safe.

How much does sea freight cost?

The cost of sea freight completely depends on your terms with the buyer or seller. There are many types of terms you can be with your seller on. The cost of Sea freight increases with the amount of responsibility your seller takes. If the goods are to be delivered to your doorstep, then the cost is supposed to be higher. If the goods are insured, you will have to pay for the insurance too. The total cost is determined before the shipping of goods, most of the good shipping companies are able to help you with that.

Some other variables that affect the cost are fuel prices, currency rates that fluctuate frequently, seasonal demands, and sea shipping capacity, which acts as a commodity. The value rises when the demand is higher than the supply.

Is it better to ship by sea or air?

Sea and air are both irreplaceable and not interchangeable as a means of transport, there are pros and cons of both, and the types of goods and their quantities shipped through these are different.

If you are shipping some goods or other important things like documents, or sophisticated tech equipment, or anything that has a smaller weight and should be delivered in lesser time, then it is better to ship by air. While shipping via air, you will have to incur heavy costs. 

If you are shipping huge loads of goods, and the goods are less perishable, then shipping via sea is a better option. The costs incurred here will be much lower.

Whether the sea is better for you or the air is completely dependent on the type, weight, and time of the delivery.

Related Post: 

Air Freight Logistics And Its Handling Process

The History of Commercial Air Freight

What are LCL and FCL in Sea Freight?

There are two types of shipment in Sea Freight – LCL & FCL. The shipping company advises you on whether your shipment needs an LCL or FCL shipment.  

LCL (Less Than Container Load) shipments are best suited for goods hat are too small to fill a whole container. So the goods are loaded and transported in a shared container with other people’s shipments. 

FCL (Full Container Load), on the other hand, is suitable for goods that are huge enough to be transported in one whole container. The goods fill the entire container. If you opt for FCL, you get a dedicated container to transport your bulky goods. 


Sea freight is one of the most effective means of transportation of goods and the world trade and economy depend on that. With the advancement of technology and better shipping techniques coming up, it is getting easier to use sea freight.

Hopefully, this article has given you an insight into sea freight and its process. 

Finally, you need to choose the best path for your cargo, and when it comes to ocean freight, don’t look any further because Trans Asia Group can help you every step of the way from pickup, packaging, and delivery. 

Contact our sea freight specialists to help you make the right shipping decisions.

Also Read: Different Types of Shipping