How Do Shipping Companies Plan for Bad Weather Logistically?

One of the more obvious negative effects of severe weather on the shipping industry is lost containers. In 2020, a total of 3,000 plus containers toppled into the sea. Although inclement weather is not the only factor behind some accidents (for example, pushing capacity limitations can be another factor), bad weather usually plays a significant part. 

To give a recent example, gale-force winds caused One Apus, a vessel that sails under a Japanese flag, to lose 1,816 containers in November of 2020. This was the second biggest cargo loss in history. One Apus was 1,600 nautical miles off Hawaii when the storm hit.

 The cumulative cost of an accident happening at sea certainly goes beyond the direct cost of lost containers. Some of these indirect costs involving weather logistics and shipping are mentioned in the following article: Accurate Maritime Weather Forecasts For Increased Ship Safety.

No doubt your shipping company plans as best as it can for bad weather. However, severe weather can develop quickly and unexpectedly. Your shipping company can also benefit from expert mariner advice to determine the right next steps even with correct data. 

Check out how RouteGuard helps you save time and fuel while keeping your crews, ships, and cargo safe. RouteGuard provides expert marine and meteorologic advice on the optimal routes.

Container ship with dark clouds

How bad weather affects the shipping process

As we have said, high winds that cause wave swells can lead to lost containers. But high winds are not the only weather problem that wreaks havoc on shipping operations.  

Fog affects visibility, and heavy rainfall affects sea levels. All these adverse weather conditions, and more, can spell trouble for the shipping process.

For example:
Shipping lanes are sometimes affected by the extent of sea ice. Extreme flooding can also close shipping channels. In addition, an accumulation of debris from flood runoff can cause channels to be shallower and less navigable. 

All these weather parameters and sea conditions can impact tightly run shipping schedules and can result in delayed deliveries. 

Also, not to be underestimated is the effect of inclement weather on ports, such as the need to suspend crane operations for safety reasons in high winds. Once port operations are affected by adverse weather conditions, shipping logistics continue to be affected downstream. 

These adverse results can include increased berth and container storage costs, as well as further delays. These delays have serious impacts on the supply chain.

For example, The massive Port of Houston was impacted by Hurricane Harvey and forced to close for several days from August 25th until September 1st in 2017.

When a ship is delayed by weather, the costs can spiral, especially if the cargo includes food that perishes. Then there are the increased fuel costs that come from trying to make up for the lost time. 


The increase in extreme weather

You don’t have to be a meteorologist to notice the conspicuous increase in extreme weather. They have been enduring a heatwave in Canada that placed the temperatures in Vancouver, Canada, as hotter than those in Dubai. recently stated, “Tropical Storm Claudette, the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, slammed parts of the South last weekend as it rolled ashore. The deadly storm produced major flash flooding due to storm surge and heavy rain.”

Scientists tell us that rising temperatures globally are leading to more severe weather, including heavier rainfall. Ocean temperatures are also rising, and this is fuel for tropical storms. It is no coincidence that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season saw a new record of 30 tropical storms and 13 hurricanes, including six major ones. 

The changing climate has the potential to wreak havoc on weather logistics and shipping operations.

Woman looking at computer monitors

The sudden nature of extreme weather makes planning difficult

It is a given that you take weather forecasts into account when planning shipping routes. But extreme weather can arise suddenly, and it is difficult to accurately predict a weather event’s precise evolution. Most of your planning is based on certain assumptions, but these assumptions have to leave room for a flexible response due to these more frequent, sudden weather changes.

Meteorologists use sophisticated computer models and algorithms for weather prediction. Still, the predictability of the weather is limited by the amount of data available, the time you have to extract information from that data, and the complex nature of the weather itself.

Even the very best weather models are no more than estimations. They cannot take into account every variable that influences the weather. Weather is a fast-moving target. 

Mariner looking off in the distance

How the right data and advice of expert mariners allow for rerouting

The very best strategy is to combine the highest quality data with the input of expert master mariners.  These expert mariners can advise you on planning the optimum routes that balance safety, cost, and time considerations. 

Ship captains know that this is a complex challenge and expert insight from master mariners and skilled meteorologists is critical. 

DTN developed RouteGuard to address this complex challenge. How does RouteGuard benefit you? It enables you to reduce voyage costs while securing safety with expert marine route guidance.


RouteGuard benefits

RouteGuard enables shipowners and charterers to save time and fuel while keeping their crews, ships, and cargo safe by providing expert marine and meteorology advice on the optimal routes. With RouteGuard, you can:

  • Save fuel and time: Expertly calculate routes with the lowest voyage costs.
  • Secure safe voyages: Reduce risks and increase safety by avoiding severe weather conditions.
  • Unburden captains: Make informed decisions utilizing personalized advice from master mariners and skilled meteorologists.
  • Improve fleet operational efficiency: Reduce downtime and ship and cargo damage by avoiding severe weather.

In addition to quality data, your shipping company can benefit from expert mariner advice to determine the right next steps. RouteGuard enables shipowners and charterers to save time and fuel while keeping their crews, ships, and cargo safe by providing expert marine and meteorology advice on the optimal routes.

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