The shipping industry is one of the biggest sectors in the world that keeps the global economy moving. Ocean freight accounts for as much as 80% of the world’s total trade volume. The world is also at the cusp of the harmful effects of climate change, affecting how we do business.

Man-made climate change induces a shift in water conditions, weather effects, and much more. Here’s how climate change impacts shipping industries and why we need to start acting on it as soon as possible.

How Climate Change Affects The World

To understand the impacts of climate change, we need to understand first how it affects offshore weather conditions and everything crucial to the industry. As there is consensus that we as humans caused much of these, it also depends on our initiative to improve it.

Climate change will affect every sector of the human economy and every aspect of our needs. It comes from several human industrial activities that led to greenhouse gases being deposited into the atmosphere. From factory farming to pollution and even transportation, decades of extreme neglect led us to this point.

Until recently, it’s been a scientific consensus that we can still reverse the effects of climate change. Increases in global temperatures are changing how waters move about, but we believed we could still reverse everything around a decade ago. That is impossible now, as we’re clear that its effects are irreversible now.

Earth’s climates are now permanently affected by the damage we dealt to it.  Does that mean that we should stop caring about the environment because there’s no way to reverse things? The truth is we can still delay some of its effects, but we will experience more problems over time.

Increasing Climate Temperatures Result In Ship Rerouting

The maritime shipping industry, in particular, will be among the most affected sectors by our lack of climate neutrality. The most apparent impact is the global temperature changes, but why?

As more greenhouse gases get trapped in the atmosphere, more heat from the sun gets trapped within the Earth. Most oceans absorb radiant heat, which increases ocean temperatures. Temperature changes result in shifts in currents, altering climate patterns worldwide.

Warmer waters result in stronger storms, more instances of low-pressure areas, and a buildup of strong, gale-force winds. For the shipping industry, storms are detrimental to how it does its function. Even with mega-freight containers the size of small towns, storms can still hamper shipping routes.

Unpassable shipping routes can be problematic, as storms can result in detours or even longer routes. Ships should not sail during a hurricane as it puts both the crew and the cargo in danger. Even a day of delay in shipping activities results in an extreme domino effect that can slow down the entire freight process.

Ports Will Expect Damage To Infrastructure

Ports are among the biggest losers as climate change grips the world. For apparent reasons, ports are at sea level and take the full brunt of the effects of rising seawater levels. As water levels drastically rise, most of these infrastructures will experience significant issues towards their structural integrity.

Over the next few years, expect ports to experience being submerged and destroyed. While the sea-level rise is slow and deliberate, it’s still problematic to experience because ports rely on the stability of ocean currents. With the sea taking up what viable land seaports have, companies can go further inland.

Many ports are unlikely to be very optimistic about the future of their infrastructure. Ports need the land in proximity to the harbor to do different freight activities. Cargo storage and warehousing rely on consistent weather and properly dry land to assist these processes.

If companies need to resolve the issue of rising sea levels, improvements in building and infrastructural practices should fix these problems. No type of material can withstand the rise of sea-water levels without changing how we deal with the effects of climate change.

Maritime Shipping Needs To Adapt Fuels and Cost

Climate change is also forcing the shipping industry to change how it deals with the resources it uses. In particular, the shipping industry would need drastic changes in how it works with fuel. Oil spills have become damaging to the environment, and climate change worsens.

Shipowners would need to balance the pros and cons of different fuel types. Compliance with IMO 2020 will cut sulfur levels to 0.50% m/m from 3.50% m/m, which means ship companies need to start finding ways to reduce their emissions or face penalties.

Finding suitable fuels is a challenge because different vessels have different operating systems. These changes will have different kinds of impacts on machinery which, by extension, will have heavy implications on operations and cost.

Different ports and refineries will also likely carry different blends of low-sulfur fuel. This can be problematic as some ships can only handle a specific range of fuel blends. These can result in damage to ship engines and necessary equipment.

Sea Level Rise Can Cut Down Productivity

As sea levels rise, climate change impacts the overall productivity of shipping industries worldwide. Rising seas are a problem on their own. Coupled with storm surges and flooding on land and extreme sea cyclones, these become detrimental to the safety and productivity of shipping workers everywhere.

For starters, a good chunk of the shipping business relies on the round-the-clock movement of freight and materials. Gales and tidal waves put ship workers in harm’s way. Almost zero activity happens during a storm for shipping industries, hence a drop in productivity.

Freight and infrastructures inundated by storm surges can drastically cut down operations of many port facilities. Even after the storms die down, flooding can continually disable port operations for a while. Laborers would be prevented from working, which creates a more drastic downtime.

To round it all up, there will also be additional costs in repairs, restorations, and, in some cases, relocation. Rather than doing work that moves cargo to its routes, management will spend precious time for rehabilitation and recovery.

Final Thoughts

The shipping industry handles more than two-thirds of the world’s trade value. Climate change is slowly but surely hampering how we operate on our seas. If we don’t do something about it, we can expect the world economy to come down on its knees one storm at a time.

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