How Climate Change Is Disturbing Shipping Lanes

blog | Jun 05, 2023

Seaports become vulnerable to climate change as they are in coastal and low-lying areas. Due to climate change, ports may experience situations such as the degradation of materials, foundations and structures due to changes in groundwater, the increase in temperature or the intensity of rainfall and winds. In addition, heat waves may require more energy to cool goods stored in ports. 

Other effects can be: 

  • Maneuverability limitation and berthing of vessels, as well as loading and unloading operations due to strong winds. 
  • Difficulty for port personnel to work outdoors on days of high temperatures.  
  • Reduced visibility due to precipitation, which could lead to delays in docking and cargo handling operations.  
  • Limitations on approach maneuvers due to wave heights. 
  • Restrictions on port operations due to flooding. 


The Impact on Global Routes  

One of the most significant impacts of climate change has been the melting of the Arctic, which has led to the beginning of new navigation routes.  

It is estimated that the melting of this area will increase considerably by 2065, creating routes that will reduce carbon footprint in addition to reducing Russia's control over the Arctic.  

Another route that has been affected by climate change for some years is the Panama Canal. It is experiencing low water levels, which have gone from 50 to 44 feet deep. Therefore, the number of daily crossings has been adjusted from 36 to 32 in addition to requesting ships to sail with less cargo to prevent any traffic jams.  


Can Mexico Provide an Alternative Shipping Route? 

In Mexico, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec has been proposed as an option to compete in world markets for the movement of goods through different means of transport.  

One of the benefits that this new route could bring is that the trade between Asia and the United States could decrease by five days compared to the current route that is carried through the Panama Canal and through which 1 400 000 TEUs could be transported annually by ships, trains and trucks.  

In addition to this route, trade with Asia, Latin America and Europe can also be a benefit with Mexico having 12 Free Trade Agreements with 46 countries.