THE PILOTS of the Port of London Authority are the cabbies of the Thames estuary. Based in Gravesend, 33km from the capital, they navigate some 10,000 ships into London terminals every year. Dispatched offshore on fast patrol boats, they use rope ladders to board ships as tall as buildings. Much like London’s black-cab drivers, who know its 25,000 streets by heart, they must recall every sandbank and wind farm at the mouth of the river.
They are essential links in supply lines relied on by south-east England for everything from food to fuel. But when winds are too strong, pilots cannot board ships. If delays accumulate, terminals get clogged. The fiercer storms that could soon come to British shores could paralyse trade for days. Such a chain reaction is an example of the costs carbon emissions may bring.
Insurance companies are