What is Sea Freight and Why Use It?
What is Sea Freight?
Sea Freight is a method of transporting large amounts of goods using carrier ships. Goods are packed into containers and then loaded onto a vessel. A typical cargo ship can carry around 18,000 containers, which means that sea freight is a cost-efficient way to transport high quantities over large distances.
There are a number of ways in which sea freight can be transported.
- FCL or Full container load, which you purchase one or more full containers to send on a ship.
- LCL or Less than container load, where your products share a container as you may not have a full container’s worth. Once they reach their destination, the container’s contents are divided once more.
- RORO or Roll on roll off, where your products do not leave the vehicle they are in to go onto the cargo ship. The vehicle simply drives onto the ship, and then drives off the other end.
- Dry bulk shipping, used for some specific items, which are deposited into the hold of the ship instead of travelling in a container.
How does it work?
Sea freight is just one cog within the machine that forms a supply chain network. Some companies opt to use a specific 3PL to have their goods shipped safely and legally. As mentioned in our Top 5 benefits of 3PL, one of the major benefits of these providers is that they already know all of the requirements and you will not have to engage with a shipping company for each item.
Once you have engaged with a shipping company, they will collect the goods from your supplier and move them through the port in one of the previously mentioned forms. It is worth noting that delivery times should include a delay moving through the port each side as they have to pass through customs.
Even with LCL as an option, you may still not have enough products, in which case it may be more cost-effective for you to send your products via Air Freight or Courier instead. These are both utilised for sending smaller quantities of products, they are more expensive as the vehicles themselves are smaller.
Benefits vs Disadvantages
- Cost-effective comparatively to other methods
- Easy to manoeuvre heavy or large products with ease
- Inexpensive over long distances
- Most Carbon-efficient solution
- Obviously one of the largest cons when it comes to sea freight is time, as it is the slowest option for moving products
- The price is unsustainable for smaller amounts of goods
Sea freight is economically and environmentally superior to other forms of product delivery service, but only if you are looking to transport large quantities or if the destination country is far away. However, even with the option of LCL, courier services and Air Freight may still be better options depending on the product in question.
Elon Musk's Boring Co. planning wider tunnels for freight
Elon Musk’s drilling outfit The Boring Company could be shifting its focus towards subterranean freight and logistics solutions, according to reports.
A Boring Co. pitch deck seen and shared by Bloomberg depicts plans to construct wider tunnels designed to accommodate shipping containers.
Founded by Tesla CEO Musk in 2016, the company initially stated its mission was to offer safer, faster point-to-point transport for people, particularly in cities plagued by traffic congestion. It also planned longer tunnels to ferry passengers between popular destinations across the US.
The Boring Co. completed its first commercial project earlier this year in April. The 1.7m tunnel system is designed to move professionals between convention centres in Las Vegas using Tesla EVs. It says the Las Vegas Convention Centre Loop can cut travel time between venues from 45 minutes to just two.
Boring Co.'s new freight tunnels
The Boring Co.'s new tunnel designs would allow freight to be transported on purpose built platforms, labelled as “battery-powered freight carriers”. The document shows that, though the containers could technically fit within its current 12-foot tunnels, wider tunnels would be more efficient. Designs for a new tunnel, 21 feet in diameter, show that they can comfortably accommodate two containers side-by-side, with a one-foot gap between them.
The Boring Co.’s new drilling machine, dubbed Prufrock, can tunnel at a rate of one mile per week, which is six times faster than its previous machine, and is designed to ‘porpoise’ - mimicking the marine animal by ‘diving’ below ground and reemerging once the tunnel is complete.
Tesla’s supply chain woes
Tesla is facing its own supply chain and logistic issues. The EV manufacturer has raised the price of its vehicles, with CEO Musk confirming the incremental hike was a result of “major supply chain pressure”. Musk replied to a disgruntled Twitter user, confused as to why prices were rising while features were being removed from the cars, saying the “raw materials especially” were a big issue.
Car manufacturing continues to be one of the industries hit hardest by a global shortage in semiconductor chips. While China’s chip manufacturing levels hit an all-time high in May, and the US is proposing a 25% tax credit for chip manufacturers, demand still outstrips supply. Automakers including Volkswagen and Audi have again said they expect reduced vehicle output in the next quarter due to a lack of semiconductors, with more factory downtime likely.
Top Image credit: The Boring Company / @boringcompany