Offset Carbon Emissions – Reducing CO2 from Shipping

Find out more about carbon emissions and how shipping contributes

Co2 Emissions in Logistics

The logistics and shipping industry is one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. With the continuous growth in international trade it is also one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gases. The global focus surrounding climate change is demanding action be taken to prevent the damage that shipping will have on the environment. Logistics leaders and supply chain managers now need to take responsibility to measure their carbon footprint and manage the amount of carbon emissions that are a direct result of their shipments, and do their part to save the planet.

Maritime shipping alone is responsible for around 4% of global carbon emissions; when combined with all other modes of freight such as air, road and rail, global shipping contributes to around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Although burning of fossil fuels, raw materials and production are the main contributors of carbon dioxide emissions, shipping is directly associated with these industries, placing the logistics industry firmly amongst the top five targets for carbon emission offsetting.

What is a carbon footprint?

A person or companies carbon footprint is caused by the emission of carbon dioxide due to the burning of fossil fuels. As this carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere it typically accumulates there when there is not enough bio-capacity to turn it back into oxygen. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases alongside, Water vapor, Methane, Ozone, Nitrous oxide and Chlorofluorocarbons.

When these gases remain in the atmosphere they cause the earth to heat up and as such are responsible for the melting of ice caps. Ultimately the destruction of natural habitats are a core reason for global warming and climate change, alongside heavy industry.

The more that an individual or entity contributes in terms of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, increases the size of that individual or entities’ carbon footprint.

How does the logistics industry contribute?

Shipping and carbon dioxide emissions have a very strong relationship. Technological advancements have still not been able to provide a solution which replaces the burning of fossil fuels, as such the vessels and vehicles used to transport freight and cargo are primarily powered by burning of fossil fuels.

In short, every time we ship goods from one place to another we are contributing to the level of carbon dioxide emissions.

Which method of shipping emits the least carbon dioxide?

Though there are many factors to consider when calculating carbon dioxide emissions per tonne, the clear leader in terms of environmentally friendly shipping is by far sea freight. Although, there are depending factors that directly impact the calculation per tonne for each specific cargo shipped. Some of these includes the type of container used to store the goods, whether the container was loaded to capacity or whether the vessel itself sailed at capacity.

When considering sea-freight as a carbon dioxide contributor, the emissions per tonne per kilometer are as shown below:

  • Bulk Vessel: 2.5grams per tonne per km
  • Container Vessel: 12.5grams per tonne per km
  • Short Sea Vessel (General Cargo): 15.8grams per tonne per km
  • Short Sea Vessel (Container Cargo): 36.3grams per tonne per km
Which method of shipping emits the most carbon dioxide?

Unsurprisingly, air-freight / shipping by air contributes the highest amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The most common vessel for air-freight cargo is the Boeing 747 F, this aircraft will release 435-474 grams of carbon dioxide per tonne per kilometer into the atmosphere. For obvious reasons, air freight will burn much larger quantities of fuel at a much higher rate, and in turn is the most expensive method of shipping.

Behind air freight is rail at 81 grams and closely behind rail is road transport at 80 grams.

How to manage carbon emissions?

Aside from the use of carbon offset projects to increase the bio-capacity of the planet, there are many ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from shipping; in terms of sea-freight for example a few items include:

  1. Speed and Route Planning Optimisation.
  2. Use of Proper Auto-Pilot Settings.
  3. Allowance of Adequate Trim to Minimise Resistance.
  4. Ensured Efficiency Stability and Steering.
  5. Carefully Monitoring of Propeller Slip and Hull Condition.


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