Saving Fuel Through Smart Seakeeping Strategies

The international shipping industry is responsible for transporting nearly 90 percent of our world’s trade and is often seen as an indicator of what’s happening on a bigger economic stage. Now, more than ever, with efficient management of vessel operations is important to keep trade moving, and with fuel representing up to half of a ship’s operating expenses, it’s a key area on which to focus efficiencies.

Understanding and effectively navigating the weather is a critical part for planning a voyage with more efficient fuel consumption. First and foremost, weather considerations should be made to reduce safety threats to the crew, as well as to the ship itself from excessive ship motion, slamming or seas washing over the decks. But in terms of fuel consumption, vessels encountering heavy weather will experience speed reduction due to increased resistance from wind and waves, so the opportunity to manage routes around the adverse weather can have profound impact not only on safety, but operational expenses, including fuel use.

The goal is not to avoid all adverse weather but to find the best balance to minimize transit time and fuel consumption without placing the vessel at risk to damage or crew injury. The savings in operational cost come about by reducing transit times and therefore fuel consumption.

Digital transformation presents a new way of thinking about route optimization. Learning how seakeeping began, its challenges and use of new technology shows the complexity of smart seakeeping. Clearly, plotting a course from A to B is not so hard, but it is made more challenging when you are trying to develop an optimum track based on weather forecasts, sea conditions, a ship’s individual characteristics and cargo load.

Within specific limits of weather and sea conditions, the term optimum can mean maximum safety and crew comfort, as well as minimum fuel consumption. The advent of real-time, digital tools like weather-optimized route networks can help you reduce time on voyage planning and improving the quality of the route.

Optimized weather routing enables shipping companies to develop the best route for every voyage, based on unique key performance indicators. It brings together the weather forecasts, sea conditions, and the ship’s characteristics and cargo to calculate the most efficient and safe route.

As route networks increase, such as in the newest update of DTN SPOS, then efficiencies can be maximized with more routing options.

Not only are there fuel consumption savings, but there are also additional operational cost savings that come about by reducing transit times, cargo and hull damage as well as more efficient scheduling of dockside activities. There are also additional savings come from increasing the service life of the vessel and reduced insurance costs.

Environmental factors of importance to ship weather routing are those elements of the atmosphere and ocean that may produce a change in the status of a ship transit. In ship routing, special consideration is given to wind, seas, fog, ice, and ocean currents. While all of the environmental factors are important for route selection and surveillance, optimum routing is normally considered attained if the effects of wind and seas can be optimized.

Various studies have shown that optimum ship routing savings in time and fuel range from 2% to as much as 5% depending on the type of vessel, season and ocean. On average savings should run between 4-8%. Calculating with an average savings of 5% and a bunker price of about $500/ton, a ship burning 50 tons of fuel per day would see savings of over $8,500 on fuel costs alone, during a 7-day transit, not to mention the savings in transit time.

Route-planning and optimization involve juggling safety, efficiency, navigation, costs, port rotation, ETAs, speed ranges and additional constraints, such as trim and seakeeping. For ship captains, this is a complex challenge that requires the aid of a decision-supporting tool to give them confidence in their decisions and support during planning and voyages.

To find out about more smart seakeeping strategies watch the DTN seakeeping webinar.