North Atlantic Shipping Lanes Facing Difficulties Due To Influx of Icebergs
Twenty years ago, James Cameron helped Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox to tally nearly $2.187 billion in ticket receipts through the release of “Titanic,” a three-hour, 14-minute cinematic homage, so to speak, of the most notorious iceberg ever. While he and his contemporaries collected kudos and cash for the box office treatment of the colossal block, the truth is that the successors to the historic mass, which sank the titular vessel on its 1912 maiden voyage, resulting in more than 1,500 deaths, are financial disasters waiting to happen. Over the last month, hundreds of them have made earlier-than-usual entries into the North Atlantic shipping lanes, causing reduced speeds and route alterations for cargo ships.
Lurking off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, the hunks, all of which cover at least 5,382 square feet and register between 98 and 164 feet in thickness, numbered 450 near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland two weeks ago. That total, obtained by the International Ice Patrol, which the United States Coast Guard has overseen since its 1913 formation in response to the Titanic catastrophe, is almost six times larger than the normal figure for this time of year, with late May typically the time for such a staggering amount.
Counter-clockwise winds and increasing temperatures that are fracturing Greenland’s ice sheet count as possible contributions to the influx, but no matter the cause, those whose livelihood depends on cooperative waters are feeling the effects. Some journeys have had as many as 400 miles tacked on due to detours, resulting in more than a day’s delay for the arrival of goods. While those in the field know that this time of year can prove testy for the prompt execution of their duties, the halts have nonetheless drawn the ire of notable individuals, including Captain Sid Hynes.
“It makes everything more expensive,” the Oceanex executive chairman said. “You’re burning more fuel, it’s taking a longer time, and it’s hard on the equipment.”
He and his peers should expect, according to ice patrol commander Gabrielle McGrath, another “extreme ice season,” meaning more than 600 icebergs will reach the shipping lanes during the peak of the season. Given that patrol reports for the last three years noted 3,398 masses in the lanes, the Coast Guard is hoping to navigate all of the ships to safety yet again, as it has never needed to tend to a vessel that has heeded an iceberg warning.