Advice for exporters: what are the different delivery options?

delivery options for exporters

The transport and delivery of your goods is an integral part of the export process. Using the correct mode of transport can be a crucial factor in obtaining the contract, contributing to your increased profits and ensuring your customer’s satisfaction.

The Institute of Export have supplied a summary below of the most popular transport options and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

For advice tailored to your specific offering and situation, if you’re an IOE member you can make use of their dedicated online Helpline Enquiry service which can be accessed in the members’ area of their web site. Otherwise you can try your local trade association or a freight forwarding company.

Mode of Transport Advantages Disadvantages 
Sea – freight ship
  • Beneficial for businesses needing to transport large quantities, with less pressure to deliver quickly
  • Large volumes can be shipped at lower costs
  • A freight forwarder can consolidate consignments to reduce costs
  • Shipping containers can also be used for further transportation by road or rail
  • Bills of Lading are documents of title and therefore an important part of letters of credit or documentary collections as they are supported by law. Carriage of Goods by Sea  Act 1992
  • Can be slower than other transport modes
  • Bad weather can result in delays
  • Routes and timetables may not be flexible to the company’s needs
  • Port duties and taxes have to be paid
  • Further transport over land may be required
Air cargo
  • Deliver items over longer distances
  • High levels of security for sensitive items
  • Can be used for a range of goods
  • Costs likely to be higher compared with other transport options
  • Flights could be subject to delay and cancellation
  • Taxes at airports
  • Fuel and currency surcharges may be added to freight costs
  • Further transportation may be needed from the destination airport to place of final delivery
  • Flexible option, for example within the European Union.
  • The motorway network is generally good and crossing national borders can be quick and efficient
  • Relatively low cost – although influenced by fuel prices
  • Extensive road networks
  • Location of goods can be tracked
  • Consignments can be secure and private


  • Long distances over land can take time
  • Can be traffic delays and
  • breakdowns
  • Risk of goods being damaged
  • Toll charges can be high in some countries
  • Countries have different road and traffic regulations


Rail freight
  • Can be an efficient and cost effective means of transporting goods
  • Routes and timetables may be inflexible, depending on location
  • Fast rail links throughout certain parts of Europe
  • Environmentally friendly compared with other transport modes


  • It could be more expensive than road transport
  • Train or line failure, or industrial action can delay transport
  • Further transport may be needed from the rail depot to the final destination



Topics: Transport & Logistics
Export Action Plan