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NDTO News Article

By Air or By Sea, Which Will it Be?

Getting your products from point A to point B is always going to be a challenge, especially for international exporters! Overland shipping from ND is a must, with the geographic center of North America somewhere within the state, but, getting your products to international markets, you may be wondering which is best for your company and bottom line. We’ll examine Air and Ocean shipping methods to better understand how to determine what is most suitable for your product.

Each method of shipping will have a lot of overlap, you should consider the following for whichever method of shipping you decide.

  • Choosing the right shipping method: Businesses should consider the volume and weight of their cargo, as well as their budget and delivery timeline when choosing the most appropriate shipping method.
    • There are several options for ocean freight, such as full container load (FCL), less than container load (LCL), and roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) shipping.
    • Air freight offers faster delivery times than ocean freight but can be more expensive.
  • Preparing shipping documentation: Exporters must prepare a range of shipping documents, such as bills of lading, commercial invoices, packing lists, and certificates of origin. These documents must be accurate and complete and comply with the relevant regulations and standards.
  • Selecting a reliable carrier: It is important to select a carrier that is experienced and reputable, with a proven track record of safe and efficient delivery. Businesses should also consider the carrier’s network of ports and destinations, as well as their pricing and service offerings.
  • Packaging and labeling: Goods must be properly packaged and labeled to ensure they are protected during transportation and comply with the carrier’s requirements. Packaging must also be appropriate for the type of cargo being shipped, such as hazardous materials or perishable goods.
  • Compliance with customs regulations: Exporters must comply with the customs regulations and requirements of both the exporting and importing countries. This may involve obtaining licenses or permits, paying duties and taxes, and ensuring that goods meet the relevant safety and quality standards.
  • Tracking and monitoring: Businesses should track and monitor their cargo throughout the shipping process, using technology such as GPS tracking and electronic data interchange (EDI). This allows them to anticipate potential delays or disruptions and take proactive measures to mitigate them.
    • Air cargo is subject to strict security screening requirements to prevent the transport of dangerous goods or materials.

Now that you’ve got some basics, deciding which shipping method is best will come down to some of the details of travel and cost between the two.

  • Speed: It should not be surprising that air freight is much faster than ocean freight. While ocean freight can take several weeks or even months to reach its destination, air freight can typically deliver goods within a few days.
  • Cost: Generally, air freight is more expensive than ocean freight due to the faster delivery times and higher operating costs associated with air transport.
  • Capacity: While ocean freight can accommodate large volumes of goods, air freight is typically restricted to smaller shipments.
  • Distance: Ocean freight is better suited for longer distances.
  • Packaging Requirements: Air freight has more stringent packaging requirements than ocean freight due to the higher risk of damage during transit.
  • Environmental Impact: Ocean freight has a lower environmental impact than air freight, as it generates less greenhouse gas emissions per unit of cargo transported.
  • Customs Procedures: Customs procedures can vary between air and ocean freight, with air freight generally having more stringent security and inspection requirements.

Overall, the choice between ocean freight and air freight will depend on a range of factors, including the volume and weight of the goods being shipped, the delivery timeline, the budget, and the destination. By carefully considering these factors and working with experienced partners, businesses can choose the most appropriate shipping method for their specific needs.


If you need assistance with the entire shipping process for your product or just a small portion the NDTO is here to help. Contact the NDTO at or visit our website for a variety of resources to help your export business: