The Blue Green Blog

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While frequent debates occur over the causes of climate change, the reality of a changing climate over the past 50-70 years cannot be disputed. Across the globe, data shows increasing average temperatures. Average global surface temperature has increased 1.14 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, with increased frequency of extreme temperatures.

Stronger and more frequent storms (both tropical and winter-time) are resulting in significant impacts to typical maritime trade routes. Vessels are often required to adjust planned routes to minimize or avoid heavy weather impacts, potentially resulting in delays and additional bunker consumption. Vessels which are not using a weather routing company may experience significant delays, or in worst-case scenarios, loss of cargo or damage to the vessel. Added delays or potential for “damage” equals added cost to the maritime sector.

Ports are also impacted by the increasing frequency of storms, with potential for damage to infrastructure in the strongest storms. At a minimum, these systems will more frequently disrupt loading/discharging operations, resulting in delays for owners, charterers, and customers. In the longer-term, ports will also be impacted by rising sea levels that may eventually require significant infrastructure changes at these ports, with potentially devastating effects for the coastal communities.

More frequent “flood” tides will have a significant impact to loading/discharging cargo due to flooding and higher tide levels. In some cases, port Infrastructure will need to be modified for higher water levels.

On the other hand, decreasing sea ice is opening up opportunities for trade routes in certain regions and at certain times of year that were impossible a few decades ago. The “Northern Sea Route” is becoming a more frequent possibility, significantly shortening the time and bunkers required to transit from the Canadian Maritimes and/or northern Europe to the Far East. In January, two icebreaking LNG carriers met in the East Siberian Sea without the assistance of an icebreaking escort!

While not usually a foremost thought for mariners, climate-driven changes to marine life may eventually impact routing options, as some areas may be “off limits” as local authorities attempt to maintain a fragile ecosystem.