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Mode of Transport to Consider for Business Shipments

The mode of transport that you choose is an important factor in the planning of the shipping process (and choosing an international shipping company too).

In addition to the cost, the method of transport should include an assessment of the urgency of the shipment, the cost of the goods to be shipped, and the size and weight of the goods. In this article, we want to help you decide which mode of transport is best suited to transport your goods and cargo!


In terms of size or volume, there are several types of cargo that cannot be transported or are economically unviable by modes other than marine transport.

Maritime transport is a less expensive way of transporting goods, however, the disadvantage is longer transit time. Another advantage of shipping is that size and weight can be a problem for aviation rather than shipping.

Shipping is widely used to transport bulk cargo such as wheat, corn, soybeans, coal, iron ore, crude oil, and petroleum products. In addition, larger odd-shaped items, including engines and screws, can also be moved using this mode, depending on how flexible the delivery time is.

Sea freight is also the preferred mode of transport for transporting large volumes and heavy loads such as minerals, metals, ores, coils, etc.which can not be transported by air.

In addition, enterprises pay more attention to the environmental impact of shipping. Airfreight generates more polluting gases with less capacity than sea freight, which are considered to be a much more environmentally friendly and higher-capacity mode of transport.

Benefits of shipping by ocean

  • Suitable for a wide range of products with long lead times
  • Big volumes. One large-capacity container ship can carry +/-20,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). 
  • The most environmentally friendly of all modes of transport
  • Economical. Linear shipping is the most efficient mode of transport for cargo transportation.
  • Wide coverage worldwide
  • Several carrier options for the shipper

This mode of transportation is an important consideration when planning the shipment process.

Besides the cost, the urgency of the shipment, the value of the goods being shipped,  the size and weight of the goods also need to be evaluated when determining the form of transportation.


For the next 15 years, as global GDP grows, demand for higher-value-added goods will increase. In order to meet the demand for growth, it is projected that the global cargo flow of aircraft will grow by an average of 4.2% per year.

Airfreight is the most important mode of transport.

It serves markets and value chains at a high demand. One of the greatest examples goes back to 1997 when Apple began to innovate in the finest details of supply chain management. Almost immediately after Steve Jobs returned. At the time, most computer manufacturers shipped products by sea, which was much cheaper than by air.

Other industries, such as automotive and retailers, also use air transportation to ensure timely replenishment (JIT). The JIT option allows stores and production lines to place orders as and when required. This provides greater flexibility and reduces inventory and storage costs.

In addition, perishable goods such as food, flowers, and some pharmaceuticals also have shorter transit times. Another positive development for air transport is that it is less likely to be damaged or stolen with regards to cargo handling in general.

However, air transport also has its disadvantages, like the fact that it is one of the most expensive because of the speed and fuel requirements.

It also has its own size and weight limits. Regulators limit what may or may not be transported by air, and therefore peculiar shaped or very large items may be more suitable to other modes of transport.

You might also like: International Car Shipping

Advantages of shipping by air

  • Fast transit
  • Less cargo handling
  • Less documentation
  • Secure arrival and departure
  • Increased security of your shipment


Another mode of transport, which is also considered to be “green”, is rail transport. Trains burn less fuel per tonne of kilometer than road vehicles.

Trains can also have more than 100 wagons and only need one driver. However, there are some additional costs in rail transport: at each end of the rail transit process, road delivery is required, and transporting the container between the train and the vehicle will require additional transportation costs.

On average, longer trips are generally cheaper by rail and shorter trips by road.

When it comes to zero cost, it depends on many factors that are specific to the route and commodity, but generally, zero cost can be expected to range from 130 to 150 miles.

In 2015, the first ISO freight train from China arrived at the Port of Rotterdam in 18 days, compared to the usual estimated 44 days at sea.

This movement of containerized cargo by rail from China to logistic hubs in Europe, such as the Netherlands, UK, is seen as a significant step in the development of trade between the two continents.

It encourages multinational corporations such as Hewlett-Packard and Ricoh to use the route from Europe to China for their cargoes.

Ricoh’s European Transport Manager said that if effective planning can be organized, rail transport is a relatively fast way to get to China, which takes only 20 days.

In addition, rail transport also has some advantages, such as bringing all containers into place at a time, and it is environmentally friendly, as the train emits far less CO2 than an airplane.

The division between freight and passenger rail business is the most extensive in North America.

Private rail companies could not compete with the automotive and aviation industries for passenger transportation and therefore withdrew from the passenger business in the 1970s.

They only managed the freight transport system, which was generally successful, especially with the introduction of intermodal transport. The passenger business has been transferred to the state agencies AMTRAK in the USA and VIA Rail in Canada. Both are struggling to survive.

The main problem is that they have to rent railroad tracks from freight railways and therefore slower freight trains have priority.

Benefits of shipping by rail

  • Reliable transit times and schedules
  • Railways are the most efficient type of land transport. One train can carry more than 400 trucks.
  • Fast and economical delivery over long distances. Usually more than 500 miles.
  • Traditionally, rail transport has a good safety record. 
  • Helps reduce congestion on roads, thereby reducing emissions.


Road transport is one of the most common modes of transport.

It is widely used on continents such as Europe, Africa, and North America. A single customs clearance procedure ensures the smooth movement of goods, even between different countries and states.

It is a very efficient way of transporting vehicles to another city or state, especially for businesses that have a fleet of vehicles to transport.

Benefits of shipping by road transport

  • Profitability
  • Fast and planned delivery 
  • Local, border, long-distance and short-distance transport, even in rural areas.
  • Flexible service
  • Save on packaging costs compared to other modes of operation
  • Tracking and tracing of goods and trucks
  • Full door-to-door service is one of the most economical modes of transport.
  • Many materials are not allowed to be transported by air, but only by road, such as lithium batteries, ammonites, and fuel.

However, road freight transport is somewhat limited in terms of the size of the vehicles used, as well as in terms of size and weight limits.

Another constraint is that it is highly affected by weather, road and traffic conditions.


Multimodal is a combination of different modes of transport, such as rail, road, and sea, which allows the customer to economically manage transportation from start to finish, providing optimal care and efficiency at each stage of the journey.

One such example is the inter-regional rail network combined with road transport. Suppliers including DHL, Geodis, UPS, and DB Schenker offer this solution across the entire Chinese Silk Road network.

According to UPS, this service saves up to 65% of airline costs, while providing transit times of up to 40% faster than standard shipping.

Another example of multimodal transportation is Sea-Air. This service is considered less expensive than air transport and faster than ocean services.

As an alternative to clean air or the ocean, Sea-Air provides global time and cost savings in the transport industry as well as environmental friendliness.

Sometimes using this type of transport helps to avoid downtime costs.

Key benefits of multimodal transport include

  • Cargo can be transported anywhere in the world by multiple modes of transport.
  • Reduces the distance for goods between manufacturer and consumer
  • Buyers can deal with a single person to handle all modes of transport in a single document.
  • Efficient and cost-effective supply options

To sum it up

There are many options for transporting goods, and there may not be only one solution for your transportation needs. Each mode of transportation has its advantages and disadvantages.

When planning and choosing the best mode of transportation, it is important to prioritize, understand what you need, and compare costs.

Jeff Campbell