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Shipping and Impact of Climate Change

05 Jan 2014

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Francis Ugwoke writes on the negative effects of climate change on shipping, ports infrastructure, navigation and position of experts on how to fight against the phenomenon


The negative impact of climate change appears to have no bound. When few years ago, the issue of climate change came up, not many knew its wide-reaching negative effect. Apart from the  destruction it has caused to homes through various degrees of  flood, it has affected agriculture to such an extent that many countries have had their  food production level reduced as a result. Here in Nigeria, the issue of climate change has been linked to either early and late rains that  have caused havoc not just in damage to farms but also destruction of some homes. In the Western world, the damage is even more. But not many knew that even in the shipping sector, climate change equally has no bound.

The nightmare which crew and Russian scientists faced aboard MV Akademik Shokalskiy is a current example of the ravages of climate change. Since Christmas eve up till the time of filing this report, the  ship and crew had remained in Australian waters stuck  by thick ice that  has been described by experts as a result of climate change. The worst scenario was even that the first attempt to rescue the ship  and passengers, including 74 scientists, tourists and  crew  by using  an icebreaker ship failed. The ice could not be cracked and the matter got worse when fierce winds and snow forced the  icebreaker to retreat. The   attempts to use helicopter   to move some of the scientists and tourists have not been easy.

This latest effort was a matter of the situation of the weather that was increasingly violent. Agency reports  have it that the  helicopter had to  wait  for the harsh  weather to settle before beginning any rescue operation. This in effect meant so much apprehension for the passengers.

How Climate Affects  Ports
A master mariner and General Manager, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Capt Iheanacho Ebubeogu  said that as a result of increasing global climate change, the world-wide sea levels are rising with their attendant consequences of encouraging land loss, increased flooding. He said that the  effects of climate change could be geographically wide spread, and may affect both transport infrastructure and ports operations. Ebubeogu identified four areas where climate change can impact negatively on ports.  These include: “increasing temperatures– which can accelerate damage to infrastructure, and reduce water levels on inland water ways, amongst others;  increasing precipitation–which can accelerate degradation of0k infrastructure and soil conditions;  rising sea levels–which can inundate coastal infrastructure: changes in storm activity which can damage infrastructure and disrupt operations due to increased storm intensity”.

Impact on Infrastructure
The effect on increase in the intensity of  temperature, according to  Ebubeogu,  could be on roads, rail bucking and  reduction in inland water level. The  impact   would be felt in the more rapid deterioration of infrastructure , such as in the   damage to pavement, rail bucking and reduced inland water level. He explained that since the quality of pavement is necessary for the structural  integrity of roads, extremely hot days over and extended period of time could lead to the rutting of pavement and rapid breakdown  of asphaltic binder, resulting in cracking, potholing and bleeding, a development that damages the structural integrity of the road. Similarly, he added that rail roads could encounter  rail bucking more frequently in climates that experience extremely hot temperature which  could result in derailment of trains. On reduced water levels,  this could be to increased temperature and evaporation with the result that lower water levels  would mean that ships and barges  would not be able to carry  as much weight as necessary.

Impact  on Navigation
Ebubeogu said that while incremental sea level rise impact may not be immediate or serve as the storm activity, the impact could never the less affect  all modes of transportation. Low level roads and quay aprons, he said, could be  at risk of inundation and ports may experience higher tides.
“Although sea level rise would have no direct impact on navigation itself, it would affect harbors infrastructure and the standard services of coastal and port structures. This may allow greater penetration of wave energy to the coast line and into harbours thus causing increasing coastal erosion in areas with a soft coast line. A change in high and extreme sea levels may cause an increased number of incidents of over topping and lowland flooding, and reduced top clearance between ships and bridges”, he said.
Since ports infrastructure is designed to cope with soil texture in consideration of  tide and waves, quay walls and shore protection, he said, will likely experience  reduction  of their   height above water level and, in extreme cases quay aprons or land adjacent to shore protections may be flooded.  With positioning of quay wall fenders also based on tidal range,  all these will affect sea rise, he said.  He disclosed that it was in anticipation of global sea rise that influenced  two  long term projects in Nigeria, including the rehabilitation of the Lagos  East, West and Training Moles. With this,    the  collapsed crest of the moles have been restored to+3m above Chart Datum, he said.

Navigational Channels
On safety of navigation,  he explained that since the characteristics of some ocean currents sometimes change, along some  channels, water density, hydrographic datum, as well as parameters for tidal prediction may vary on the tide tables. Given the same dredging campaign efforts, many ports, according to Ebubogu  may advantageously enjoy more advertised depths as a result of sea rise meaning that vessels could come in with deeper draft for the same effort of dredging. “Conversely, some channels may have their regime distorted by new siltation rate and pattern”, he said.
On how to respond to  sea rise  as it affects   port operation,   the design heights of some “Ship-to-shore” gantry cranes in certain ports, he said,  may have to be adjusted if they must effectively carry out discharge in fully laden large container vessels.

Solution to Climate Change
Ebubeogu holds the view that since climate change may have come to stay, there  was the need for synergy of efforts to mitigate it.  This,  he said, should be by “collective research, data gathering and storage, monitoring and information dissemination to minimize cost and achieve a broader picture for early warnings” He called for the synergy to be within   regional and sub-regional level involving nations. He  equally called for   policy guidelines on design and construction of water front infrastructure as well as the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to  be systematically reviewed and enforced in line  with changes arising from this phenomenon. He was of the view that maritime administrations be weary of the relationship between climate and migration of marine creatures as well as its eco-influence so as to use the Ballast treatment convention to check this negative impact. He tasked ports of the world to  fight against this global phenomenon,   and  endeavor to adopt feasible policies that would promote the use of environmentally friendly machinery and equipment.

Tags: Business, Nigeria, Featured, Climate Change

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