Global Warming – Implications for Shipping and Ship Owners

Global Warming – Implications for Shipping and Ship Owners

An overwhelming portion of the scientific populace agree that global temperatures across the Earth are heating up at a quicker pace than in previous years, with unprecedented temperature levels becoming commonplace, as a result of ever increasing greenhouse gas emissions. These extreme weather conditions have caused the ice in the arctic region to melt at an alarming rate.


As a consequence of rising global temperatures, many glaciers have been rapidly melting, causing the ice to break apart and form icebergs, which pose a significant danger to shipping vessels. It has been estimated that there are now well in excess of 400 icebergs in the North Atlantic region alone, which has impacted the behaviour and travel times of vessels voyaging throughout the area.

Captains have to be extra careful when traversing the surrounding waters in a bid to avoid colliding with one of these menacing behemoths of mother nature. Ships are either forced to travel at reduced speeds to make navigation safer or radically alter their courses to circumvent the treacherous conditions altogether. Such actions greatly hinder the arrival and departure times of all marine traffic and the delays caused by the icebergs can be as great as two days or more, which can be catastrophic for logistics companies.

Shipping CO2 Emissions

Of course, the great irony here is that shipping vessels themselves contribute to the growing problem of global warming and its subsequent effects on the shipping industry. According to Transport & Environment, CO2 emissions from the shipping industry have risen by 70% since 1990 and could account for as much as 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Such numbers would only worsen the already perilous conditions faced by many vessels navigating the North Atlantic seas.

Fuel Efficiency – Technology in Reverse

According to a recent study conducted by Transport & Environment, the fuel efficiency of modern vessels is actually worse than that of those that were built way back in 1990, by an average of 10%, with bulk carriers performing the poorest. To combat these worrying trends, the U.N. agency, International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has devised a climate change standard known as the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), aimed at forcing all new vessels to comply with the parameters outlined in the legislation. So far, the EEDI has not proven particularly successful and has been largely ignored by ship manufacturers.

Tackling Ship Greenhouse Gas Pollution

Under an agreement that was reached in October of 2016, a blueprint for tackling GHG pollution from vessels is set to be delivered in 2018. This a precursor to a set of strict guidelines that is likely to be announced several years later, which will detail environmental protection initiatives and penalties that will be enforced upon ship operators for non-compliance.

There is Hope Yet

Global warming is a man-made miasma that has far reaching effects, and its impact extends to the shipping industry. Rising temperatures are triggering record levels of melting ice, leading to the creation of an unprecedented number of dangerous icebergs within the North Atlantic Ocean. Icebergs pose a serious threat to cargo vessels and attempts to avoid them result in slower travel times and delayed arrivals and departures, causing chaos for logistics companies.

As we’ve seen however, ships themselves are responsible for a sizeable and ever-growing proportion of greenhouse gas emissions and are thus partly to blame for their troubles. Only through the enforcement and strict adherence of environmental protection guidelines can the issue of global warming and its many symptoms hope to gradually improve.

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