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Air Freight vs. Ocean Freight
(posted July - 2012)
(Editor's Note: For too many hunters, getting trophies from the field to the trophy room is just an afterthought that gets lost in the excitement of planning a hunt and actually going hunting. Too often, that last-minute mentality leads to problems which could have been avoided had hunters included trophy shipping as part of their planning process.

Here at The Hunting Report, we constantly hear complaints about problems with trophy care in the field, trophy shipments, and taxidermy. We try to address those issues and, whenever possible, educate traveling hunters on how best to avoid any problems. For example, we issue Email Extra Alerts to keep you on top of changing import regulations and requirements around the world. But that's only one aspect of a larger picture.

This month, we begin an intermittent series on trophy shipments with the help of our newest corporate affiliate, Global Hunters, a custom house broker specializing in hunting trophy logistics and based in Hollywood, Florida.

Our first topic is ocean versus air shipping. If you have any questions about shipping your trophies, feel free to send them directly to us or to contact Bettina Montoya or Fabian Conde at
Global Hunters or by phone at 954-237-4838.)

     Your trophies are treasured pieces that will keep your hunting memories alive for a lifetime. This will influence your decision when choosing how to ship them. The purpose of this article is to give the hunter better tools to make wiser decisions about the entire hunt, which includes bringing home your trophies. Our company sees both shipping by air and by sea as legitimate options, since we receive hunting trophies via both methods.

     First of all, you should know that all international shipping logistics are based on Volumetric Weight. Width x Length x Height/6000=Volumetric Weight. Shipping of your trophies will be charged by the volumetric weight of the shipping package in kilograms.

     Air Freight has a number of advantages and one disadvantage.

First, the advantages:
  • Quicker transit time: Once shipped, your trophies will be at their port of entry in days.
  • Fewer risks of theft or damage to the trophies. Air freight companies have tighter control over cargo.
  • Lower insurance costs: Air freight is a safer transportation method, therefore insurance is cheaper.
  • Less Packaging: Air freight sometimes requires less packing because of faster delivery and better handling conditions. Your trophies will not always need to be packed in an expensive wooden crate.
  • Controlled Environment: Air freighted trophies will generally not be exposed to extreme heat, humidity, cold, etc.
  • Logistical Considerations: For shipping point to point on a single continent, air freight is a better logistical choice.

  • Now the disadvantage: Cost: Air freight is generally more expensive than ocean freight.

    Ocean freight also has an advantage and several disadvantages, which mirror-image the pros and cons of air freight.

    First the advantage:
  • Cost: Ocean freight will be cheaper than air freight for bulky, heavy packages, such as fully-mounted trophies.

  • Now the disadvantages:
  • Long Consolidation Time: To be cost-effective, ocean freight requires that enough trophies be consolidated to fill a container. Your trophies won't be shipped until a container is full, which usually means extra waiting time. If your trophies are not consolidated, you will likely incur extra deconsolidation fees. Beware of this.
  • Packaging: A very good wooden crate is mandatory in order to keep your trophies in good condition throughout the transit time; depending on the export location, this could be expensive.
  • Long Delivery Time: Trophies could take months in transit.
  • Uncontrolled Environment: Trophies will suffer more exposure to heat, humidity, cold, etc., depending on the origin, destination and route.
  • Higher Insurance Cost: Marine insurance is not enough; there are too many exclusions on it. Consider buying additional private insurance. We recommend following SCI's suggested insurance guidelines for trophies.
  • Special Inspections: Extra inspections could be applied to your trophies, anything from a VACIS exam (Gamma Ray) to having the container fully stripped of its contents and each item examined. A full inspection will usually lead to additional charges. Unfortunately, this is happening more frequently with hunting trophies than before.

  • So which is right for you? In our experience, both shipping methods can work, but here are some points we've learned from experience.

  • Choosing ocean freight just because it is cheaper will probably lead to an unhappy customer when the shipment takes too long or the trophies are not in perfect condition when they arrive.
  • The fact that your trophies can take months in transit does not automatically mean they will be damaged, only that there are far greater risks involved on ocean than air freight.
  • Air freight is more expensive but not outrageously more expensive. With more export shipping companies around the world specializing in trophy shipments to the US and elsewhere, hunters may even begin to see better prices in response to the increasing competition.

  •       We strongly recommend finding a broker that specializes in hunting trophies and asking for their advice before you go on your hunt. Then, consider all the details on each particular shipment you are bringing home to calculate your actual costs-and potential losses! For example, a world record animal may require different handling than a representative head-or not, if that representative head reminds you of the hunt-of-a-lifetime. - Fabian Conde


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