How to choose between air and sea freight

December 16, 2016

For Australian companies that want to export or import goods, choosing the correct form of freight services can be tricky. Usually it’s a choice between air and sea freight services. Let’s look at the specific points of difference and see how they add up.


Sea freight companies calculate their shipping costs by the container rates.   Generally standard containers are 20 or 40 feet. While in some cases weight does factor into the price, sea freight is most commonly based on the size of a shipment.  For smaller quantities, prices are calculated by the pallet or as part of a mixed container.

Airlines bill you by what is called a chargeable weight. Chargeable weight is also known as volumetric weight is calculated from a combination of the weight and size of a shipment.   Let’s look at an example for 1 pallet of goods.

A standard pallet measures 140 x 100 x 90 cm.  Its actual volume is 1.2 x 1.0 x 0.9 = 1.26 cubic meters.

To calculate its volumetric weight you use the following formula:

  • Divide 1.26 Cbm by 0.006 = 210. This equals the volumetric weight of the shipment, in kilograms.

If however the actual weight of the pallet is for instance 150 kilograms.  Airlines will charge air freight out at the volumetric weight 210 kilograms, and if the pallet actually weighs say 250 kilograms, the freight will be calculated on the actual weight of the shipment.


If you’re exporting anything which is light, needed urgently, has a short shelf life or requires sensitive climate control, Air Freight is almost certainly your best delivery option.  Naturally the cost is higher than sea freight, but if you’re receiving a premium for fresh or fast delivery it’s a good investment.

Alternatively if you’re considering international freight services to deliver bulky or heavy products, that don’t have a limited shelf life, and time is not a driving factor, then sea freight is the most economical transportation option to get your international freight imports or export to market.


In the International Freight business reliability is strong currency which is why having a Broker with excellent industry connections and knowledge pays dividends.  Flights can be delayed by weather or other factors, but generally any holdups are quickly resolved.  Sea freight schedules are more vulnerable especially if there is a major weather event.  In most cases a short delay doesn’t matter but for some clients any holdup in the chain of supple can cause serious problems.

Because MYC International Logistics knows this business inside out, we’re confident we can provide the best advice and deliver a comprehensive service. Call us today on +61 8 9253 0121 to discuss how we can assist you.

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