Shipping goods to Amazon FBA warehouses: by Air Or sea? (advantage and disadvantages)

Shipping Goods to Amazon FBA Warehouses: By Air Or Sea? (Advantages and Disadvantages)

There are two ways for Amazon sellers for shipping goods to Amazon FBA warehouses:  shipping by air, and shipping by sea. In this article, we will take a brief look at each option, their pros and their cons for the Amazon seller.  

Consider the costs

In the end of the day, you want to protect your profit margins, so you can’t go overboard (pardon the pun) with your shipping costs; you need to find the balance between the size and weight of your shipment.

For example, with air shipping you will be charged on a combination of the size and weight of your shipping.  So, even if your shipment is light, but it takes a lot of room, you could still end up paying top dollar. On the other hand, if your shipment consists of small but weighty items, you will still pay more.  Hence the need for a ‘balancing act.’

When it comes to sea shipment, it’s a matter of whether your shipment will be in a partial container load (LCL) or qualify for a full container load (FCL).  The plus side of LCL shipping is that payment is usually done based on your volume in cubic meters, which means that if the bulk was small, you would pay a lot less than air shipment.  The downside of sending in LCL, is that your shipment can be opened several times prior to its arrival, by shippers or customs officers, increasing the risk of damage, not to mention delays.

Shipping limitation on goods

Many countries have their own lists of products that are banned by air shipment, such as batteries, light bulbs, speakers, etc., and which can only be shipped by sea. In such cases, and depending on the country, you won’t have much choice in the matter.

Shipping to Amazon FBA warehouses by air


Shipping by air is always the fast and reliable option.  You also have an option of express air which can get your shipment even faster, but of course, that will cost you much more.   


High cost; space limitation for large shipments.  Have stricter cargo regulations.

Shipping to Amazon FBA warehouses by sea


Lower-cost than shipping by air  can handle shipments of much larger capacity


Slow, subject to sudden climate change and schedule changes.  More cost-effective, larger shipment capacity. However, new shipping options offer faster services, such as Expedited LCL and guaranteed delivery days that can cut down the shipment time.

Shipping from China:

Amazon sellers can ship by air or by sea also from China.  Here, in addition to standard sea and air shipping, sellers also have Express shipping

Advantage: the fastest shipping method, takes just a few days to get to Europe or the US.   

Disadvantage: Expensive, increases the seller’s costs.  Also, there are restrictions on certain product types (liquid, batteries, etc.)

Shipping to Europe FBA

Europe contains several major Amazon marketplaces, which you can ship to by air or sea as well.  Keep in mind that VAT is higher than the US, and differ in EU and non-EU countries.

Additional costs for Amazon sellers

It’s not just a matter of shipping and picking it up from your front door: once the shipment has arrived and unpacked, it will be stored until it receives approval from the local customs inspectors.  This is an outlay you should factor in when calculating your shipping costs. There is no set time period, and so the costs can climb up. Depending on the cargo’s destination, it’s worth inquiring the storage costs for both shipping ports storehouses and airport storehouses: in the end of the day, what you save in one can be negated by the cost of storage.  Last but not least, to all this you need to add pickup & transportation fees as well.

The bottom line:

Both shipping methods have their advantages and disadvantages.  As you can see, overall, shipping by air is generally considered faster than shipping by ocean, although the latter has a few options that can speed it up a bit.  The question you need to ask yourself, as a seller, is: can you afford slower shipment for lower cost, or possible delays? Is the effect on the environment part of your consideration (shipping by sea produces a lower carbon footprint than air) Or does the financial investment in air shipping paramount to your business?  As far as large shipments are concerned, it will be more cost-effective for sellers to ship those through sea shipments, while smaller shipments will pay more to ship by air.  As an Amazon seller, you need to factor in the size and weight of the shipments, as well as storage costs, and compare them side-by-side. And, of course, you need to make sure you’re following Amazon’s FBA shipping requirements.