I worked at a loose tea shop in a tourist town last summer. My boss would order some rare tea from the Himalayas on occasion, and the rarest by far was the Jasmine Dragonwell. This is a tea crop that only grows one month out of the year. Once or twice a week someone would come in asking for Dragonwell, and more often than not, my boss would say this:
“Sorry, it’s on a freighter in the middle of the ocean somewhere and I have no way to contact my distributor. I’ll let you know when it comes in.”
Between the rarity of the tea leaf and the trouble we had with sea freight shipping, we only carried Dragonwell maybe three weeks out of the whole year.
Sea freight shipping is often the only option available to small business owners in the developing parts of the world due to technological barriers and its affordability as a shipping method. Often, developing distributors do the bulk of their business the very old fashioned way, ie, door to door selling and word of mouth. American cargo shipping however has become revolutionized by one invention: the airplane. American air cargo positively flies around the world, and is a much better option than sea freight shipping for the following reasons:
1. It’s faster. Air travel is exponentially faster than sea freight shipping, and there are now several passenger-free cargo airlines that deal in both domestic and international trade goods. Even better, since airplanes can cover more distance in a shorter amount of time, this allows for more point-to-point delivery routes. This door to door transport greatly reduces the risk of lost or missing items.
2. It’s safer. A fast, efficient air transport from point A to point B with maybe only one load and unload in between greatly reduces the risk of damage to your goods. Air travel in general is also more trackable, as all airlines have flight numbers and track flights assiduously, whereas freighters often take unauthorized stops and are unreachable due to poor signal in the middle of the ocean.
3.It’s more eco-friendly. This seems counterintuitive because jet fuel is widely known to be a noxious agent of pollution. However, point-to-point transport via airplane is actually more eco-friendly due to the fact that it so dramatically cuts down on delivery time and stops made. (Not to mention freighter fuel is no picnic for the trees either.)
There are some businesses, like the high end tea business for example, that have no choice but to endure sea freight shipping methods as par for the course. But we encourage you to optimize your goods transport and make the switch to air cargo if at all possible. We are confident you will have both peace of mind and a piece of paper telling you where your stuff is, where it’s going, and how to find it again.