International transport and distribution

Advantages and disadvantages of sea transport for international trade


If your business needs to transport large quantities but there is no pressure to deliver quickly, shipping by sea may be beneficial. You need to carefully assess the advantages and disadvantages of shipping goods by sea.

Advantages of shipping goods by sea freight

Some of the advantages of transporting goods by sea include:

  • you can ship large volumes at low costs - a freight forwarder can consolidate consignments to reduce costs
  • shipping containers can also be used for further transportation by road or rail

Disadvantages of shipping goods by sea freight

There are risks and disadvantages of transporting goods by sea, including:

  • shipping by sea can be slower than other transport modes and bad weather can add further delays
  • routes and timetables are usually inflexible
  • tracking your goods' progress is difficult
  • you have to pay port duties and taxes
  • further transportation overland will be needed to reach the final destination
  • basic freight rates are subject to fuel and currency surcharges

Protect your consignments with cargo insurance. Under the maritime transport conventions you automatically have limited insurance cover under the Hague-Visby and Hamburg rules. However, it's advisable to get additional insurance, such as general cargo insurance.

For more detailed information on your maritime freight options see how to move goods by sea.