Watch Out International Shipping, Antarctica is Falling Apart!

 In export, global warming, import, International Shipping

by Jared Vineyard

Universal Cargo Management blogged previously about how melting ice in the arctic is opening up new shipping lanes. Climate changes and global warming have made advantageous new routes possible that could save huge geographical distances for international shipping.

But arctic and ice cap melting is not all good for international shipping.

While countries are getting excited about capitalizing on international shipping through arctic routes like the Northern Sea Route or even the possibility of going directly through the north pole, melting ice down in the Antarctic is giving reason for concern.

The Independent reported last week that a giant iceberg broke off of Antarctica and could drift right into shipping lanes.

A similar, but separate, occurrence was reported by The News two days later. An iceberg broke off a glacier in the Antarctic that could drift into shipping lanes. This iceberg is 33 square miles or the size of Manhattan, The News reported.

The News went on to report that scientists say icebergs of this size break off of glaciers every two years on average and can survive a year or longer as they drift. The risk being that they will drift into shipping lanes and put ships into danger.

The risk goes beyond the danger to ships. The News quoted Professor Grant Bigg from the University of Sheffield as saying, “If these events become more common, there will be a build-up of freshwater which could have lasting effects.”

For a little perspective, the iceberg that sunk the Titanic is believed to have been around 80 feet tall and 200 feet wide. Assuming the width and length of the Titanic sinking iceberg were both 200 feet, it would take a little over 871 of them to equal the size of the iceberg that broke off the glacier in the Antarctic.

But that’s nothing compared to the iceberg that The Independent reported about breaking away from Antarctica.

They reported that this iceberg is 270 square miles, 8 times as big as Manhattan or equivalent to the size of Singapore.

This gigantic iceberg was part of the Pine Island Glacier which is part of the Western Antarctic ice sheet.

The British government gave experts, headed up by the University of Sheffield’s Professor Grant Bigg, a £50,000 grant to attempt to track the iceberg and predict its movement.

“It often takes a while for bergs from this area to get out of Pine Island Bay but once they do that they can either go eastwards along the coast or they can… circle out into the main part of the Southern Ocean,” Bigg is quoted as saying in the Independent article.

That’s where the danger to ships would come in.

Here’s the picture of the danger for international shipping from The Independent article:

Prof Bigg said a previous iceberg in the area had been tracked going through the Drake Passage, a gap between Cape Horn at the bottom of South America and Antarctica’s South Shetland Islands.

This would take it into the path of one of the world’s busiest international shipping lanes, and trigger hazard warnings via a number of observation agencies.

Of course, even as Antarctica falls apart, international shipping is pressing on.

If you need your goods exported or imported, we’re ready to take care of your international shipping. And we’ll keep an eye out for shipping lanes blocked by giant chunks of ice.

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