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Transport Modes in Logistics: Making Right Choices

Key aspects to consider when you choose a transport mode for your shipment are speed, cost and safety. You should also factor in the nature of commodity, cargo value, package dimensions and available routings to destination. Be it land, air or sea, each shipping method has unique benefits as well as limitations. In this article we are breaking down the pros and cons of each transport mode to help you decide what might work best for your shipment. After all, your choice of transport will affect your cargo’s delivery times, unit cost and ultimately, your business’ bottom line.

Transport modes

Ocean Freight

Ocean freight is the backbone of global trade, accounting for around 90% of goods traded and transported globally. Sea transport is an environmentally friendly and low-cost transport option that is suitable for carrying bulk commodities and oversized items over long distances at competitive rates. However, shipping by sea means longer transit times compared to other shipping modes, with lead times ranging from several weeks to several months. Maritime transport is also impacted by weather conditions, piracy, port congestion and the resulting delays, damage or loss, making it a less reliable option for high-value commodities.

Air Freight

Air transport is the perfect solution when you require speed, flexibility, higher levels of security, making it ideal for fragile, time-critical, and high value goods. While air cargo accounts for about 1% of global freight movement by weight, according to IATA air transport also carries over US $6 trillion worth of goods or approximately 35% of world trade by value. Air freight also means your cargo is handled less and does not require heavy packaging. Apart from the relatively big carbon footprint, the major downside of air transport is the cost, being at least 5 times more expensive than ocean freight. Air cargo also has limited dimensional capacity and tighter regulatory restrictions, making it unsuitable for bulkier or heavier shipments or some types of dangerous goods.

Road Freight

Road freight is a low-cost and flexible transport option best suited for intra-continent deliveries. It is also arguably the most common transport solution for first and last mile deliveries, as most goods travel by truck when they are picked up from shippers or delivered door-to-door. Road transport is light on regulatory limitations and can transport the widest range of goods, including flammable or toxic products, perishable goods or outsized cargo. On the other hand, road transport is affected by higher risks of accidents and delays caused by severe weather, poor road conditions and traffic congestion.

Rail Freight

Rail freight is greener and more economical than other modes of transport, especially for long-distance, high-volume shipments. According to the International Energy Agency, while the rail sector carries about 7% of global freight transport, it represents only 2% of total transport energy demand. It’s more reliable and better organized with fixed routes and schedules. Safety is the top of the line, as the chances of accidents and breakdowns of railways are minimal compared to other shipping modes. However, rail freight can be vulnerable to theft or damage, particularly in areas with low security. Besides, limited coverage or diverse infrastructure (gauge difference) of rail networks makes it challenging to transport goods across borders in certain regions.

Multimodal Transport

Multimodal transport uses a combination of at least two modes of transport, for example, sea freight and road transport or air + trucking. In landlocked countries located deep inland, such as Uzbekistan, multimodal transport is the only transport solution to get your goods to international markets. While transloading between various modes of transport throughout your shipment’s journey can be complex, an efficient combination of multiple means of transport can also result in cost-savings, route optimization and shorter transit times. At CargoPoint, we act as a single interface between you and multiple carriers and authorities involved in different portions of your shipment’s journey, be it air, sea, road or rail.

Making the Right Choice

As a shipper, you frequently face a choice between minimizing shipping costs and opting for longer transit times. Other considerations include availability of service, delivery deadlines, value of your goods and the per unit cost that shipping adds to your goods. And of course, shipping involves much more than the choice of transport mode. Be it choosing the best shipping mode or routes, risk management, cost optimization methods or customs compliance, our team at CargoPoint is here to guide you through the complexities of international shipping.


About CargoPoint

At CargoPoint, we connect Central Asia to the rest of the world through our freight forwarding and logistics solutions. We combine our global presence, industry expertise and world-class service to help businesses reach international markets with speed and efficiency. We offer a complete range of services in international shipping, logistics and customs clearance to meet your supply chain needs, regardless of your industry, business size or location. Contact Us if you require assistance with shipping and/or are experiencing any logistical issues that need to be addressed.


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