Maritime Shippers Prepare for Coronavirus & Researchers Predict Icebergs on Main Shipping Routes

by | Jan 29, 2020

2 min read


Coronavirus Could Negatively Impact International Shipping 

As the coronavirus continues to spread in China and other parts of the world, the shipping industry is being encouraged to prepare for the disease and anticipate the ways it could impact shipping operations.

The virus is expected to impact mostly maritime shipping, which is responsible for carrying around 90% of all of the world’s trade, according to The Maritime Industry Knowledge Center. While the impacts are not being felt yet, The International Workers’ Federation (ITF) is beginning to issue precautionary warnings.

While it is unclear how many people will eventually get coronavirus, the shipping industry should prepare for the possibility of seafarers catching the virus. Infected crew members would force ships to be placed into quarantine which would delay and possibly deviate ship routes.

There are no confirmed cases of seafarers contracting coronavirus, but six crew members of a French-operated container ship have become ill during a trip from China to Egypt, according to the Maritime Executive. It is not sure what illness the crew members have but some fear that they are the first seafarers to contract the virus.

A closure of Chinese ports is also a big concern for the shipping industry. So far, only Wuhan, China, where the virus originated, is closed. Any further closures would surely impact global trade operations and the health of the global economy.

University of Sheffield Develops System to Predict Icebergs That Will Impact Shipping Routes in 2020 

Icebergs that stray from the arctic to south of 48°N put ships traveling between Europe and North America at risk. In an effort to avoid accidents and shipping disruptions, the University of Sheffield has developed artificial intelligence to predict the movement of these icebergs.

The number of icebergs that venture south varies each year. Some years no icebergs travel south of 48°N, while other years there is an excess of 1,000 icebergs. Using a new control systems model that uses artificial intelligence, the university is predicting that between 479 and 1,015 icebergs will reach 48°N this year.

This is a dramatic decrease from the 1,515 icebergs observed last year. A decrease in icebergs straying South into shipping waters will mean a smaller chance that ships will encounter icebergs on their routes.

The university model shows that iceberg rates can largely be attributed to the calving of Greenland and suggests that “higher number of icebergs are associated with colder sea surface temperatures and stronger northwesterly winds,” according to a press release from the university.

When the model was tested, it was 80% accurate for the number of icebergs for the years between 1997 and 2016.

Topics: COVID-19