Containerization has transformed freight transportation, and today it is easier than ever before to use various modes of transport – ships, planes, trucks, and rail to move cargo from one place to another. With a lot depending on how quickly and cheaply businesses can manage their supply chain logistics, finding the optimum mode of transport is critical. A quick look at the pros and cons of sea, air, and rail transport for moving containers:
Sea Freight Transport
Even though sea freight goes back hundreds of centuries, it was only as recently as 1956 that containers that changed the face of freight transport were introduced. Today ocean freight accounts for the majority of the freight transport. According to Statista, ocean freight accounts for as much as 80% of the world’s cargo. Not surprisingly, giant ships carry most of it in containers.
The main reason for the popularity of ocean freight is its cost-effectiveness, especially for the carriage of bulky goods, heavy materials, and machinery, cars, etc. It is also more environmentally friendly, which is a huge plus point that often compensates for the extra time it takes.
Rail Freight Transport
Rail transport is the most preferred mode of overland transport for bulky cargo. With fixed transit times and train schedules, rail transport has the advantage of both speed and predictability. In addition to higher safety than road transport, it is also a much greener method of freight transport.
The overall cost of transfer by rail is significantly lower than that of road transport due to low railroad shipping rates. Further, trains can move a large number of containers at the same time without creating congestion. It is an ideal mode of transport for goods like minerals, ores, metals, grains, and other bulk cargo.
Road Freight Transport
One of the most common methods of transporting cargo, road transport relies on trucks to carry relatively low volumes of goods over shorter distances. Logistics planning using trucks allows you to be flexible as you can arrange doorstep pickup and delivery of the goods. While road transport is ideal for carrying out daily transfers common to the retail and wholesale trade, it gets affected by both weather and traffic conditions. Compared to ocean and rail transport, it is costlier as well as more prone to disruption due to accidents. However, trucks are easy to track, viable for short distances, and you can access remote areas beyond the reach of rail and ship.
Air Freight Transport
The biggest advantage of air freight transport is speed and thus ideal for businesses that offer “just in time” delivery solutions and speedy solutions for perishable goods like flowers, pharmaceuticals, and high-value cargo. Even though it is far more expensive than other modes of transport and you cannot transport bulky or heavy goods, it is a safer and quicker transport mode.
Even though businesses can choose the mode of transport most suited to them and their clients, often there are no clear-cut solutions. You may need to use various modes of transport for optimizing logistics. Increasingly, inter-modal transport is becoming more popular with containers being shipped by road, rail, sea, or air depending on the circumstances.