Vessel routing is simply about getting a ship from one port to another. Historically, it relied on fixed routes and didn’t factor in weather conditions. The main downside of that is heavy weather events can result in delays and unforeseen costs due to the need to reroute affected vessels.
Then came the introduction of weather routing, which focuses on safety. Its primary aim is to help vessels avoid dangerous conditions. Staying out of harm’s way is a significant selling point. So are the cost savings. The sooner a ship’s crew knows about a weather hazard, the less the financial impact as they can avoid rerouting. In 1983, IMO Resolution A.528(13) advised that weather routing proved beneficial to all shipping operations. IMO recommended that all governments should encourage the adoption of weather routing practices.
The latest evolution is weather-optimized routing. It has all of the same safety benefits of traditional weather routing and uses the weather to advise on routes based on predicted vessel performance. Over the last 10 years, weather-optimized routing’s unique, innovative approach has provided a new level of value to the industry.
Weather-optimized routing is characterized by five essentials.
1. Weather data
When it comes to weather data, the resolution is important. These images show how resolution affects forecasts. The low-resolution images on the left have a limited area of maximum current. The high-resolution images on the right have a better-resolved channel and show the stronger currents throughout the entire channel.
The different resolutions could influence decisions on whether to depart earlier or later in the voyage plan. It could also change the route taken through the channel. Either way, speed calculations and vessel performance in this area will be affected by the difference in current, if using the higher resolution forecast model.
But the resolution level isn’t the only consideration for forecast accuracy. Verification is also essential
2. Ship profiles
For weather-optimized routing, how the vessel model responds to the environment is critical. Its profile includes waves, wind, and swell. It also considers the angle of the impact versus vessel heading, which is essential for resistance calculations.
Vessel size, cargo types, and speed capabilities affect how ships respond to weather conditions. Knowing a ship’s traits means its vulnerability to adverse conditions — and its ability to avoid them — can be taken into account when planning a route.
Every ship has a unique performance curve. The Ship Profile Library, developed with MARIN, contains advanced algorithms for the resistance impact of wind and waves on specific vessel types.
3. A unique routing algorithm
The unique routing algorithm allows routes to be optimized for speed, fuel, or cost.
It starts by ingesting the latest weather data. Next, up to 30 safety parameters are set, choosing whether to warn or to avoid the parameter. Warning return routes include the parameters but will alert when limits are exceeded. Avoid routes around the parameters with that setting. Parameters can be direct, like wind, waves, cyclone distances, or visibility. They can also be derived, including motion, roll, pitch, and more. Next, restrictions to avoid in the route are set. This is followed by custom waypoints, which can be inserted and included in the route. Finally, vessel characteristics, including model and profile, laden versus ballast voyage, adjustments to the fuel/speed curve, and trim setting, are input.
4. A weather-optimized route network
The weather-optimized route network essentially opens up navigable waters for routing, as it allows the unique algorithm to route a ship around dangerous or adverse weather conditions. It is hyper-accurate and safely navigates vessels through shallow areas and mid-sea obstructions.
5. Master mariner expertise
Master mariners use their navigational knowledge, obstacles, sea currents, and waters affected by pirates to deliver tailored, practical routing guidance. Their understanding and skills enable the shipping team to deliver premium route advice. They appreciate the challenges and processes onboard the bridge, providing efficient and realistic routing and speed guidance.
To learn more about the five essentials to weather optimized routing, read the whitepaper: The Five Essentials to Weather Optimized Routing.