Rethinking business-as-usual: Mackenzie River freight transport in the context of climate change impacts in northern Canada

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  • The Mackenzie River is a major transportation route serving many remote northern Canadian communities and mining sites. The river is only navigable during the summer and early fall, when clear of ice. However, the river’s water conditions have changed significantly in recent years, and are expected to continue to do so, resulting in increased uncertainty for waterway transport. This paper presents a model for providing guidance to shipping companies, customers, and government on how shipping patterns may need to evolve to effectively adapt to changing climate conditions. Future freight volumes are forecasted using time series analysis. Then, logistics cost optimization is used to incorporate predicted water flow profile changes in shipping companies’ future delivery schedule planning. Results indicate that future waterway freight delivery capacities in September and October may be insufficient to transport forecasted volumes, and shipping companies may be advised to arrange for increased delivery activities in June and July. If delivery capacities are constrained by equipment and crew availability rather than water conditions in the first half of the shipping season, shipping companies may also need to take advantage of earlier anticipated ice breakup to begin the delivery season earlier. Incorporating this method for climate change adaptation in freight schedule planning may aid both shipping companies and government agencies in rethinking current practices. The method is particularly suitable for a region where harsh environmental conditions, climate change, and extreme remoteness have an overwhelming impact on operations, and logistical delays are considered quite differently from supply chains further south.

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    Article (Draft / Submitted)
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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International