Friday, April 16, 2010

Volcanic Ash Causes Switch From Air To Road Freight For Shipping

'Act of God' May Mean No Compensation for Shippers and Passengers
Shipping News Feature

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UK – NORTHERN EUROPE – With British airspace closed to all commercial traffic for the first time in history the ash still spewing from the Icelandic volcano has achieved what military and terrorist actions never have. Now there are fears that the situation might even continue in some areas as the huge cloud of silicon based particles drifts according to the whims of local winds. There is currently no sign that the prevailing winds might alter, nor that the situation will normalise.

The uncertainty for shippers means that many are looking to road freight solutions to and from the UK as opposed to their urgent consignments which traditionally use the airfreight route. A list of suitable companies is of course available within the Handy Shipping Guide Directory, simply follow the links from Shipping Schedules via Road Groupage Services (mainly Europe) and choose the country and destination or departure point.

At the time of writing the embargo over the UK is still in place but currently nobody knows which areas the cloud will directly affect, nor when it will disperse or fall to earth. Now some insurers are privately stating that they may invoke the ‘Act of God’ clause present in most policies for both shipments and personal travel insurance, thus avoiding the tens on millions of pounds that might otherwise be claimed against the policies for delays and cancellations.

As described in earlier articles the miniscule ash particles can sandblast the windscreen of aircraft that pass through a cloud reducing or removing visibility altogether. Even more seriously particles entering the engines of a modern jet melt in the extreme heat and, upon exiting, cool rapidly coating the turbine fans with liquid glass and causing them to slow and stop. Unless this coating shatters as the plane loses height (as probably happened in the BA 747 incident in 1982) and breaks away, the plane will crash before it can restart the engines.

There is talk that some Northern flights may be allowed to leave the UK sometime today (as we write five flights have been allowed to leave Belfast and Northern Scotland) but readers are advised they should check with the meteorological office and their own airport for updates.