First of all, I know it is impossible to answer this question accurately. But that is not the point. An approximation will suffice.

For a project I need to display the CO2 "cost" for shipping a parcel. It primarily involves shipping parcels between Western European countries, but occasionally there will be some parcels going to Canada and the US as well.

So, how can I approach this with a fairly simple calculation?

  • Two related questions with pieces of the answer: Lowest impact transatlantic crossing and What is the share of global human CO2 emission of cargo transport by ship?
    – LShaver
    Sep 24, 2019 at 20:09
  • 1
    Do you know anything about how the parcels are transported? Overseas by plane or boat? Within Europe by train and truck, or only by truck?
    – THelper
    Sep 24, 2019 at 20:59
  • Weight and volume of the parcel? Transport method (probably in bulk by container)?
    – user2451
    Sep 25, 2019 at 8:10
  • @THelper I will double check, but I am sure the large majority is transported either by train/truck/van.
    – wout
    Sep 25, 2019 at 17:36
  • @JanDoggen At least 90% will be relatively small packages of between 30x20x10 and 60x40x30 cm.
    – wout
    Sep 25, 2019 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


Carbon intensity by shipping method

The World Shipping Council provides this chart showing approximate carbon emissions by shipping method:

enter image description here

Shipping emissions calculators

If that's too approximate, there are a number of different calculators you can try out:

The last tab calculates annual emissions based on quantity, weight, and distance of packages shipped. It's annualized, which is annoying, but it's the only one of the three that includes air freight (and zeppelin!).

OOCL is a Hong Kong-based logistics and shipping company. This calculator breaks down results by shipping method, but only seems to work for major ports.

enter image description here

CN is a Canadian railway operator. This calculator seems like the most useful of all. You enter the major ports for shipping distances, then add additional distances that the cargo will travel by train or truck.

enter image description here

  • Do you know if the weight of the ship itself is accounted for in the calculations?
    – clapas
    Jul 24, 2020 at 13:02
  • @clapas this would directly affect fuel efficiency, so I'd assume so. A heavier ship, all else being equal, would use more fuel, and fuel use is what's actually being measured.
    – LShaver
    Jul 24, 2020 at 14:36

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