Case study: Coastal climate adaptation at the Port of Tyne
The Port of Tyne is a major deep-sea port, handling a diverse range of cargoes from cars to containers, bulk goods to passengers and support for offshore operations. On behalf of the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) implemented by ECMWF, we have partnered with the Port to assess the impact of climate change on their current and future operations.
When discussions began, the Port was in the process of conducting a detailed evaluation of its strategic infrastructure investment plans. A key component identified through this evaluation was the sensitivity of port operations to weather both now and in the future:
Like most ports, wind, wave, and fog conditions can prevent vessels from safely accessing the port
As with other ports, berth operations are sensitive to wind, fog, and precipitation
Tidal range dictates the periods of time when larger vessels can manoeuvre within the port.
Together, we sought to clarify the effect of operational decisions (tug boat services, pilot vessel services, etc.) on port efficiency, evaluate the impact of metocean conditions on port operations now and in the future, and consider climate adaptation solutions.
Using innovative development of our ForeCoast® Marine risk management application, and based on information provided by Port of Tyne, we simulated real, key operational activities, their inter dependencies and associated meteorological constraints. For example, the model simulates the arrival of ships, waiting outside the port, the use of pilots and tugs, berthing and cargo operations, based on known wind, wave, and water level thresholds.
By varying the underlying metocean data to include both historic and climate projection data sets, we were able to assess resulting changes to the operations, thereby providing essential input to the Port’s climate change adaptation strategy. For example, in a situation with unabated carbon emissions through to 2070, sea level rise was projected using a single climate model ensemble member. The simulations determined that this would allow large vessels to enter the port more frequently.
The resulting flexibility when scheduling vessel arrivals may also result in more evenly distributed requests for pilots and tugs which benefit vessels of all sizes. This was found to offset small changes to wave and wind conditions.
The work was well received by the Port of Tyne team. By partnering with them in this way, we have provided invaluable guidance on:
How the changing climate might affect port performance before the end of the century
Identifying opportunities to improve port efficiency
Optimising future investments (e.g. berth redevelopment) in the face of a changing climate.
This study has shown that, given the complex nature of port operations, the impacts of climate change will not be linear, and may in fact represent a complex mix of both positive and negative impacts. It is expected that the exact nature of how these impacts balance out will very much be dependent on the geography of the port and the nature of its operations.
More research is required to explore these considerations, and the ECMWF’s Climate Data Store represents a very good vehicle to do so.