Industry Issues

Carbon Emissions FAQ

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Q: Does international maritime shipping of goods produce more CO2 emissions than transporting locally produced goods because of the long transportation distances involved?

A: Generally, the answer is no. Because maritime shipping is the most carbon efficient form of transportation, shipping goods across the ocean often results in fewer carbon emissions than transporting such goods domestically.

For example, a ton of goods can be shipped from the Port of Melbourne in Australia to the Port of Long Beach in California, a distance of 12,770 kilometers (7,935 miles), while generating fewer CO2 emissions than are generated when transporting the same cargo in the U.S. by truck from Dallas to Long Beach, a distance of 2,307 kilometers (1,442 miles). Similarly, a ton of goods can be moved from the port of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Tianjin, China, a distance of 3,327 kilometers (2,067 miles) generating fewer CO2 emissions than would be generated if the same goods were trucked from Wuhan in Central China to Tianjin, a distance of 988 kilometers (614 miles.) The wine industry recently examined this issue and found that a bottle of French wine served in a New York restaurant will have a lower carbon transportation footprint than a bottle of California wine served in that restaurant. A whitepaper released for the Transport Intelligence Europe Conference states that researchers evaluating this issue for the World Economic Forum "found that the entire container voyage from China to Europe is equaled in CO2 emissions by about 200 kilometers of long-haul trucking in Europe. So, for most freight, which is slow moving, there is not really a green benefit to moving production to Europe."

In fact, shipping goods by sea to ports adjacent to major retail markets is the most carbon-efficient means of moving most products to market in a global economy.

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