Cape Horn

In northern Europe parts of the Baltic Sea and the different gulfs leading off it become ice-bound from November to March and despite the sophistication of the ice-breakers, including a few that are nuclear powered, some of the ports are closed during the depths of winter. On some occasions there are very attractive rates to be obtained for late season cargoes in ice-affected areas but the risks have to be very carefully calculated. So me areas of the world are notorious for heavy weather such as the North Atlantic in winter or Cape Horn at almost any time and the southern tip of Africa on occasions.  Even ordinary bad weather can lengthen a voyage enough to erode the profit seriously and this will be discussed later. There are seasonal bouts of extremes of weather which can be damaging, occasionally fatal, even to today’s modern ships. In different parts of the world they go by different names but in essence they are similar in meteorological terms in that they are areas of extreme low atmospheric pressure which produce violent circular storms (anti-clockwise in the northern hemisphere – clockwise south of the equator) which develop over the sea and produce wind speeds averaging around 75 knots and gusts reaching twice that speed at times.  As well as the damaging high winds these storms bring exceptionally heavy rain and occasionally the wind will cause tidal waves to build up which can cause tremendous damage ashore. The worst of these storms occur along the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn (23.5 degrees north and south of the equator).  Not only do they present a direct hazard to any shipping in the affected area but when they hit land the damage they do can put port installations out of action and can devastate crops which would otherwise be available for export. Among the areas where such storms are prevalent are the southern Indian Ocean where they are simply known by the meteorological name of Cyclones and may be encountered from November to May.