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Force Seasons: The Impact of the Hurricane Seasons to Shipping

The first of June is traditionally considered to be the start of the hurricane season in the North Atlantic, while the 15th May is when the season begins in the Eastern Pacific. True to form, the Eastern Pacific hurricane season kicked off on May 15th. However, the Atlantic season started well before the accepted date with tropical storm Ana on the 7th May.

This year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting a below normal Atlantic season. They are stating a 70% likelihood of 6-11 named storms, 3-6 hurricanes and 0-2 major hurricanes. They are also predicting an above normal season for the Eastern Pacific with 15-22 named storms, 7-12 hurricanes and 5-8 major hurricanes expected.

As ever it will be the crews at sea who will bear the worst of these storms. However, with ever tighter demands on efficiency, the storms will also affect the bottom line of many shipping companies as a result of vessel re-routing or, possibly, repairs when avoidance action is not taken.

At present, the Eastern Pacific is the more active ocean having experienced hurricanes already, namely Andres and Blanca, and its most recent tropical storm, Carlos. The image below, provided by the National Hurricane Center (NHC), shows this current system.

National Hurricane Center

Tropical storm Carlos, which has developed off the coast of Mexico, will track northwest along the coast with sustained winds of 60 mph and increase to hurricane strength over the next five days. It is then expected to move north-westerly along the western Mexico coast as indicated by the image from the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) below.

JTWC picture

Carlos clearly poses a threat to ships transiting between the Panama Canal/South America, the US/Canadian west coast or Great Circle routes to the NW Pacific. Masters of ships on these routes would do well to heed weather warnings and monitor the developing storm carefully.

Despite NOAA forecasting a below normal season in the Atlantic, the storms still have the potential to disrupt shipping in the area, and the above normal season forecast for the Eastern Pacific even more so. Professional weather advice will help to significantly mitigate against disruption and ensure Masters can achieve safe, efficient and cost effective voyages in these turbulent areas.