Maritime shipping is critical to our global economy. It enables businesses to trade across borders. It supports access to new markets all over the world. And it’s a relatively cost-effective way to transport large quantities of goods over long distances. In fact, approximately 90% of international trade involves shipping on water, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Unfortunately, recent severe drought in the United States is causing Mississippi River water levels to drop so low that ships have been running aground. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has warned that there will be a “major financial impact.” Just how much? An RTI study says it could cost the shipping industry up to $10 billion annually by 2050, reports CNBC.
Of course, this isn't a U.S.-only problem. Hot windstorms known as Khamsin, combined with increased desertification and drought, played a key role in the grounding of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal. Meanwhile, the Panama Canal continues to suffer a drought that has led authorities to implement water conservation tactics, such as limiting traffic and restricting cargo weights, further backing up supply chains. Farther north, a bomb cyclone in Vancouver, Canada, blew 109 shipping containers overboard back in 2021. “We firmly believe that climate change poses a great threat to the shipping industry and the consumer overall,” says Narin Phol, Maersk’s president for North America.
Shipping is the transportation method most affected by climate change. But it’s also a noted contributor, responsible for nearly 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions — roughly as much carbon each year as the aviation industry, The New York Times reports. Plus, the article states that ships burning fossil fuel spew out pollutants that reduce the life expectancy of the significant percentage of the world’s people who live near ports. Bottlenecks at those ports, like those created during COVID lockdowns, make the pollution even worse.
Over the summer, the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization met to finalize a plan that would cut emissions from shipping to net zero by 2050, according to the AP. However, climate experts warn that it’s not enough and that producers need to come up with alternative solutions. For their part, Maersk is inventing new ways to power their ships, including green fuels such as methanol that uses captured biogas from decomposing organic waste in landfills. One notable benefit of this green fuel is that it’s made in existing facilities using existing infrastructure and plants, enabling quick production and reducing the amount of off-gassing that would have occurred if the waste hadn’t been touched.
Prepare to make a change
Rising temperatures and worsening conditions are making supply chain disruption inevitable — and preparation paramount. Forward-thinking supply chain professionals can play a key role in this effort by developing and implementing sustainable transformation strategies. Take the first step by becoming Certified in Transformation for Supply Chain (CTSC). You’ll gain the skills and knowledge to help your organization apply systems thinking to solve complex problems, use digital technologies to improve visibility and agility, measure and report on the impact of your supply chain transformation efforts, and much more. Start your transformation journey today.