Winter shipping is already notoriously difficult and often dangerous. But while winter often meant some of the Northern most shipping routes were once closed off due to ice, increasingly mild winters as brought about by climate change are leading to predictions of shorter ice seasons, and quicker shipping times between Europe and Asia.
Changes in these weather conditions aren’t necessarily good news, however. While port authorities might see some benefit and can lower operating costs, ships themselves could see dangerous weather in the Baltic Sea as winds becomes an increasing problem. These winds could cause pack ice to form and make ships vulnerable. Either way, shipping companies find themselves paying the cost financially for any damage or delays.
The other problem with climate change is that quite often the weather in winter can be unexpected. The polar vortex in 2014 had widespread effects around North America meaning that not only shippers themselves but the manufacturers of the goods they were shipping found themselves facing large costs and delays. Bad weather is brutal for shippers, yet it seems surprising how many professionals can find themselves caught off guard.
While the weather is something that can’t be controlled, bad weather is bound to strike at some point. If plans are in place to deal with it then at least there can be some salvation. The most important thing is communication, so that your company and clients are educated in how weather can lead to service failures and how often it can be best to move inventory to strategic locations before the winter draws in.
For ships that do venture out during the harsher winter weather, shipping companies need to ensure that visibility, durability and reliability of safety devices are all perfectly sound. Contingency plans can save on unexpected costs, even if it’s something as simple as including an extra time allowance on a shipment. The most important thing of all for winter shipping is to maintain efficient and accurate use of long-term weather forecasts. Without vital weather predictions and accurate information, winter shipping is doomed to disaster.