Now that we’ve talked about the trade-offs between speed and cost, let’s talk about which shipments are right for which types of freight.
Size: What Cargo Is Right for Ocean Freight vs. Air Freight?
In short: Large or oversized shipments are better for ocean freight.
Some freight concepts boil down to simple common sense. Oversized cargo is one of them. If you’ve ever seen a container ship up close, you’ve got an appreciation for its massive size. Now compare that to a large airplane, like an Airbus 380 or a Boeing 747.
Sure, those planes are large, but there’s no comparison in terms of cargo space. It’s like comparing a hot dog to a six-foot submarine sandwich!
As a result, it might not surprise you to discover that ocean freight is simply better suited for oversize cargo—and cheaper, too. To hammer this point home, let’s take a quick look at the cargo containers for both modes of transportation..
For air freight, these are called ULDs, unit load devices.
If your shipment doesn’t fit in a ULD, it’s considered oversized cargo, which is both more costly and more difficult to ship.
The most common ULDs we work with include the following:
- LD-3 Container
- Dimensions: 61.5” x 60.4” x 64”
- Maximum Weight: 3,500 lbs.
- LD-7 Container
- Dimensions: 125” x 88” x 64”
- Maximum Weight: 13,300 lbs.
- M1 Pallet
- Dimensions: 125” x 96” x 96”
- Maximum Weight: 15,000 lbs.
For ocean freight, steamship lines use standard 20′ or 40′ containers.
- 20′ Standard Container
- Dimensions: 20′ x 8′ x 8’6″
- Maximum Weight: 47,880 lbs.
- 40′ Standard Container
- Dimensions: 40′ x 8′ x 8’6″
- Maximum Weight: 58,750 lbs.
For large or oversized cargo, flat rack, platform, and open top containers are available. However, since they’re not stackable like standard 20′ and 40′ containers, items shipped in these containers are priced differently. Now, to give you a sense of the space available for ocean freight vs. air freight, let’s compare a 40′ container to a ULD:
- A 40′ container offers a shipper 2,390 cubic ft. of loading space.
- An LD-7 ULD offers a shipper ~370 cubic ft. of loading space.
In other words, a standard 40′ ocean freight container offers you more than six times more space than one of the larger air cargo ULDs. The obvious conclusion? If you have a sizeable or oversized shipment, ocean freight will be your best choice.