Weather-optimized routing combines data from multiple sources to calculate a vessel’s optimal route. It uses accurate weather data, ship-specific profiles, and the expertise of master mariners to help each voyage to meet its key performance indicators (KPIs).
In an ideal world, vessels would be routed around adverse weather. But only routing through favorable conditions takes more time and fuel — which is not ideal for reducing costs or environmental impacts.
In practice, weather-optimized routing is about sailing on the edge of what is considered acceptable for the ship, crew, and cargo. This approach can result in route changes or even advice for the vessel to change speed and allow the weather to pass. Each recommendation depends on what is safe while considering voyage time and fuel consumption.
How does weather-optimized routing work?
Weather-optimized routing is point-to-point, safety-focused route planning. It includes speed and heading recommendations, accounting for the impacts of environmental forces on vessel performance.
After gathering all of the data, meteorologists and master mariners determine the best route — and potential alternatives. Initial voyage planning begins 24 hours before departure, establishing what each route will mean for the voyage duration and the estimated time of arrival (ETA).
Every day during the voyage, the route is recalculated based on the latest weather data. Recalculation is essential, as even small changes in conditions can impact the route.
What are the benefits of weather optimized routing?
1. Reduced environmental impact
It’s no surprise that reducing fuel consumption remains at the top of the list for the shipping industry. Ocean-going ships contribute 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions. While regulations like IMO 2020 help, shipping companies can implement other approaches to reduce their environmental impacts.
Studies show vessels can cut emissions by up to 55% through measures to reduce fuel consumption. Approaches, like speed reduction and weather routing, can reduce emissions by 17-34% and 1-4% respectively, saving up to $325 per ton of fuel.
2. Improved vessel performance
Captains must balance a range of factors, including safety, efficiency, fuel consumption, ETAs, speed ranges, and additional constraints like trim and seakeeping. Weather-optimized routing provides greater decision-making confidence and helps improve performance.
For example, the variable speed algorithm can lock in the appropriate speed for an on-time arrival while also avoiding severe weather. Tools, like voyage trim optimization, target fuel consumption reductions and help shipping companies increase fleet utilization.
Adverse weather alerts inform captains and senior crews if conditions change on the planned route. This information allows a new route to be plotted before it becomes a safety risk or affects voyage performance.
3. Increased voyage safety
Maintaining safety is paramount. Adverse weather puts crews at risk. It can also damage the ship itself, due to excessive motion, slamming, or seas washing over the decks. In higher wind fields, conditions strongly impact the captain’s ability to maneuver the vessel.
Shipping companies need to know vessels will withstand the conditions along their chosen routes and ensure the well-being of crews and cargos. Confidence in the routing guidance helps them make the right call at the right time.
4. Improved cost-savings and operational efficiencies
Route choices can impact a voyage’s profitability. Whether used onboard or onshore, weather routing ensures that the benefits of reduced fuel consumption and cost savings do not compromise efficiency. Considering the voyage’s KPIs, the optimal route means you can reduce fuel consumption without missing ETAs, breaking charter-party agreements, or impacting safety. Weather-optimized routing can offer fuel savings between 2-5%, depending on the type of vessel, the season, and the conditions. Reduced fuel consumption also helps lessen the environmental impacts of a voyage.
Weather-optimized routing is the art and science of developing the optimal route for a ship based on current weather forecasts, ship characteristics, and cargo requirements. The goal is to find the best balance between minimizing transit time and fuel consumption and avoiding injuries to the crew or putting the vessel at risk.
For every voyage, weather-optimized routing helps shipping companies address their main concerns and pressures: managing costs, reducing fuel consumption, and above all, keeping their crews and cargos safe.
To learn more about how you can Reduce Environmental Impact by Improving Vessel Performance with Weather Optimized Routing. Read the white paper.