Canadian Shipper


Shift from airplane to sea transport is “significant”: says shipping consultancy

AMSTERDAM, Neth.– In a new study, shipping consultancy Seabury finds a pronounced shift is taking place from air cargo to ocean transport. New container technologies contribute to the trend, the study indicated.

“A decade ago, tomatoes were just as likely to be transported by air as in a reefer container. Today, tomatoes are transported almost entirely in containers. The same holds true for numerous other perishable commodities,” said Seabury’s Maritime Advisor Derek Brand, who authored the report.

About 100,000 TEU per year is transported by ocean carriers instead of airplane. The shift is particularly pronounced in certain perishable commodities like tomatoes, capsicum, fresh fish, lettuce and pineapples, but not only perishables.

“The volumes that have shifted to ocean transport are significant for the air cargo industry,” said Brand.

If there had been no mode shift since the year 2000, 5.4M tonnes of cargo would still be transported by air rather than ocean. Air cargo should have grown at an average annual rate of 4.5%, but has instead grown at 2.6%.

“New technology in controlled atmosphere containers, such as Star Cool CA, has the potential to further increase the trend. CA’s ability to slow down the ripening process opens up ocean transport as a viable alternative to air cargo on some of the longer trade routes,” Brand adds.

Maersk Container Industry (MCI) is the maker of Star Cool CA.

“As new trades open up our customers can improve their business. Add to that carbon emissions savings by almost a factor of 50 when you compare air and sea transport,” said Anders Gamborg Holm of MCI sales and marketing. “We have been on the market with CA for five years now. It’s reliable and affordable, and we predict it will make further inroads in the market.”

Executive summary of the Seabury analysis is available at

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1 Comment » for Shift from airplane to sea transport is “significant”: says shipping consultancy
  1. Waseem Saleh says:

    While some specific commodities take longer to ripen, delayed transport by sea for those items may make perfect sense. However, some fruits and vegetables ripen in days and can’t wait weeks or sometimes even months to be transported by marine. Of course, nothing beats air cargo when speed to market is a concern, as time between harvest and point of sale varies depending upon commodity. And fresh fish and lobster, as close to catch as possible, always taste better as restuarants will attest to.

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