UK report warns on changing shipping patterns brought about by climate change

The UK’s Ministry of Defence has published a report, which outlines the physical threat that out-of-control climate change poses to the global shipping industry and trade routes.

Changing weather could disrupt key shipping chokepoints, including the Panama Canal, the extensive report predicts.

The report also looks at the effects of climate change on aviation and road and rail links.

Inland waterways are also likely to be affected by climate change, with the government report stating the cost of shipping on the North American Great Lakes is likely to increase by 9% by 2050 as water levels drop.

Other parts of the world may experience much higher rainfall and might have to close inland waterways as they become unsafe for use.

By 2050, shipments of raw materials are likely to double to Western economies and quadruple to other regions, and global freight trade could grow between 330-380%, the British study claims.

“The melting of polar ice is likely to provide new, shorter sea routes through the Arctic. However, climate change is likely to result in increasingly intense storms, sea level rise and periods of more intense rainfall, which are expected to disrupt shipping, increase the frequency of port closures, reduce the speed of passage, require routes to be altered, damage infrastructure and disrupt major trade routes,” the report stated.

In terms of the regulatory environment the study noted that the International Maritime Organization will need to modify regulations in response to advances in technology such as automated shipping and new energy-efficient means of propulsion including solar power or modern sails.

The full 282-page report can be accessed here.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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