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Why Not Just Put Freight on Planes?

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21.10.2021

With America’s major seaports clogged with ships full of goods, it’s not unreasonable to ask why shippers don’t just use planes instead. Ships are old-fashioned and slow, and many Americans probably didn’t realize how dependent we still are on them before the shipping crisis put it in the headlines. Airplanes are faster and more modern, plus they aren’t limited to coastal destinations.

Air freight and ocean freight are not as close substitutes as you might think, though. Here are some reasons why.

The biggest reason is economies of scale. Ships are much larger than planes and the more cargo you pack on one ship, the cheaper each individual piece of cargo is to ship. To give perspective on the scale, recall the Ever Given, the container ship that was stuck in the Suez Canal. It’s 1,312 feet long. That’s over five times as long as a Boeing 747-8, one of the largest widely used cargo planes in the world. The Ever Given is 192 feet wide, which is nearly ten times wider than the cabin of the 747-8.

The difference in scale really shows when you measure in freight, though. The unit of measure for ocean freight is 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs. It’s a measure of volume based on the space a standard 20-foot-long container takes up. Air freight, on the other hand, is measured in........

© National Review


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