Changing Weather Patterns and The Shipping Industry

Oct 21, 2017News

The climate is in a constant state of flux. With each trip around the sun, temperatures change, weather patterns shift and industries affected by the weather must be constantly adapting.

The shipping industry as a whole is feeling various effects caused by constantly changing weather patterns, and it could impact the way business is done in the future.

Rising Sea Levels

As we enter a different temperature cycle, rising temperatures are melting glaciers and as a result, sea levels are rising. As these levels rise, various aspects of the industry are impacted as multiple consequences arise.

Port Infrastructure:

Rising water levels are affecting the infrastructure of ports which are, by necessity, located at sea level. But, as sea levels rise, these structures are facing additional strain and are more prone to flooding. This means looking forward, maybe further ahead than normal, when it comes to planning and building practices. They may be rising slowly, but it is a factor that should be taken into consideration.

Frequent Flooding:

The higher the water level, the less it will take to flood an area. So, as sea levels rise, weaker storms will more easily flood areas that were once only affected by extreme weather. Overwhelm from storm surges can impact the operations of port facilities by preventing employees from getting to work, increasing downtime and causing delays, and by raising repair costs.

Changing Weather Patterns:

As weather changes, rising temperatures and other issues will lead to a number of consequences over the coming years, such as:

  • An increase in refrigeration and many production costs
  • Increased ship times due to inclement weather
  • Changed routes
  • A delay in the loading and unloading of cargo


The supply and demand chain will also change as climates fluctuate and the goods being produced are impacted.

As drought and extreme heat hit the region surrounding the Port of South Louisiana, as an example, corn, soybean, and wheat output from states like Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois, which traditionally export their product via the Mississippi River, will continue to decrease. Long-term, this could mean there is less demand for shipping services, and ports will lose business and profits.

Economic Impact

There is also a monetary impact as pressure is put on the industry to increase the efficiency of its ships, decrease carbon emissions, and potentially pay a carbon price on the bunker fuel used by ships.

As an example, the EU is cracking down on ships that travel through their waters and in early 2017 announced plans to include these vessels in its Emissions Trading System. The plan stated that if no action is taken by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) by 2023 to reduce emissions, the industry will be included in its plan to cap emissions.

The two are at odds as the IMO says it has been working to introduce Energy Efficiency Design Index to help build less fuel-hungry ships and plans for a 0.5% limit on sulfur content of fuel from 2020.

As storms pummel ports and tempers flare over taxes and emissions, it’s clear that even on the most macro level, our constantly changing climate will continue to have a definite effect on the shipping industry.

If you have questions on how to navigate changing weather while protecting your supply chain, contact us today!



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