Air Freight vs Sea Freight Carbon Footprint: Which is Lower?

There are many factors to consider when deciding how to ship your goods. One of them is the environmental impact of your mode of transport. Between air freight vs sea freight carbon footprint, which is the best option for you?

We’ll also discuss some economic considerations that can help you decide between air freight vs sea freight carbon footprint.

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Air Freight vs Sea Freight Carbon Footprint

Speed, cost, and environmental impact are all important. So, let’s take a look at air freight vs sea freight and see which is the better option for you.

Air freight is often the fastest option, but it is also the most expensive.

And, of course, there is the environmental impact to consider.

Air freight emits more carbon dioxide than sea freight, making it a less sustainable option.

On the other hand, sea freight is slower but it is cheaper and more sustainable.

If you are shipping goods that are not time-sensitive, sea freight is the better option.


Which Is More Energy Efficient?

We all know that air freight and sea freight have different impacts on the environment.

But which one is more energy efficient?

It all depends on how you measure it.

If you measure by the amount of fuel used per ton of freight, then air freight is more efficient.

But if you measure by the amount of CO2 emitted per ton of freight, then sea freight is more efficient.

So, which is more important to you?

The amount of fuel consumed or the amount of CO2 emitted?

If you’re concerned about the environment, then you’ll probably want to choose the option that emits less carbon dioxide.

But if you are more concerned about cutting costs, then you’ll probably choose the option that uses less fuel.

Either way, it’s important to be informed about the different impacts of air freight vs sea freight so that you can make the best decision for your needs.

Comparing the Carbon Footprints of Air and Sea Freight

When it comes to freight transportation, there are two main ways to get goods from point A to point B: by air or by sea.

Both methods have their pros and cons, but what about their carbon footprints?

Airfreight generates 47 times more greenhouse gases than ocean shipping, for every ton-mile.

While airplanes produce 500g of CO2 per metric ton of freight per kilometer of travel, cargo ships only produce 10-40 grams per kilometer.

While it’s true that shipping is generally better for the environment than flying, there are complications that can affect this.

Sea freight has two main advantages:

  • Significantly lower carbon emission rate.
  • Aircraft emit gases directly into the stratosphere, which have a greater impact on the chemical composition of the air.

Ocean liner companies, however, emit pollutants into or over the oceans, and those can contribute to ocean acidification.

Reliability matters too especially for sensitive products. It is less likely that pharmaceutical products will be lost in transit via air. And when it comes to lost goods, the environmental impact of producing more can be significantly greater than any emissions saved between air and sea.

One of the biggest complications surrounding environmental friendliness is the age of the vessel. Newer vessels emit significantly less pollution than older ones.

Additionally, most ship engines run on low-grade, high-sulfur fuels.

Finally, most old cargo ships were incapable of filtering out pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrous oxide, and sulfur dioxide.

Economic Considerations

When it comes to shipping goods, businesses have to make a lot of decisions. There are many factors to consider, but one of the most important is cost.

Air freight is generally more expensive than sea freight. This is because it is faster and more convenient. However, it also has a larger carbon footprint.

So, if you are concerned about the environment, you may want to choose sea freight.

Another factor to consider is time. If you need your goods to arrive quickly, then air freight is the way to go.

However, if you can afford to wait a few extra days, then sea freight may be a better option.

Air Freight vs Sea Freight: Which is Better?

Both have their pros and cons, and the best choice for your company will ultimately depend on a variety of factors – from the type of goods you’re shipping to the urgency of your shipments.

That being said, one factor that is worth considering when choosing between air and sea freight is the carbon footprint of each option.

As businesses become increasingly conscious of their environmental impact, it’s important to consider the carbon emissions of your shipping methods.

When it comes to air freight vs sea freight carbon footprint, sea freight is the clear winner. In fact, according to one study, shipping by sea results in just 2.7% of the carbon emissions of air freight.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that shipping by sea is always the best option for your business.

At the end of the day, the best choice for your business will depend on a variety of factors. But if you’re looking to minimize your company’s carbon footprint, shipping by sea is the way to go.

Key Takeaway: Sea freight is more environmentally friendly than air freight, producing just 2.7% of the carbon emissions.


If you are choosing between air freight vs sea freight carbon footprint, ocean liners may have the advantage here. But the best choice for your business depends on a lot more factors. You’ll need to consider things like time sensitivity, budget, and shipping destination when making your decision.

If you’re still not sure which option is best for you, we recommend talking to a logistics expert who can help you weigh all of your options and make the best decision for your business.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you ship your products in a way that is gentle on the planet.

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