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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

Weather accounts for 80% of vessel performance and must not be ignored

Fri 10 Aug 2018 by Martyn Wingrove

Weather accounts for 80% of vessel performance and must not be ignored
Weather and sea conditions have a major impact on ship efficiency

Shipowners, operators and managers should consider optimising ship voyages as the most effective way to improve vessel performance. This is because weather and ocean conditions account for 80% of impact on vessel performance, according to voyage intelligence specialist StratumFive’s chief executive Stuart Nicholls.

He said the shipping industry risks investing billions of dollars on vessel optimisation services, but still failing to deliver overall operational efficiency and performance. This would be because owners’ and managers’ lack of appreciation of weather and ocean effects on voyages.

“We believe that the combined effects of weather account for around 80% of the effects on vessel performance, whereas other factors make up the remaining 20%,” said Mr Nicholls.

He highlighted that fuel consumption is a function of the resistance that the vessel has to overcome during a voyage. That resistance is a function of several other factors, such as vessel block coefficient, loading and trim, water density, currents, waves, wind and biofouling.

Of these functions, shipowners and managers have little control over weather and ocean conditions except when planning voyages to avoid the worst conditions.

Mr Nicholls explained that the resistance when navigating in unfavourable conditions generally increases by 50-100% of the total ship resistance in calm weather. He pointed to research conducted by MAN Energy Solutions, which demonstrated that resistance on a 140,000 dwt bulk carrier can increase by up to 220% in extreme conditions and weather.

“While the 20% remains important and can create important marginal gains, the impact of weather significantly outweighs them, but is often sidelined or ignored,” said Mr Nicholls.

He thinks shipping companies would miss out on significant efficiency gains by ignoring weather and ocean conditions. There are also other benefits to conducting weather routeing, such as minimising cargo damage, ensuring the safety of passengers and crew on board and deliver more precise arrival times.

“By factoring in the impact of weather on a voyage, vessel owners and operators can make crucial decisions about their route,” he said. “No matter how well optimised a vessel’s engine or trim might be, if the vessel is experiencing adverse weather conditions, this ceases to be relevant.”

StratumFive provides voyage intelligence to more than 11,000 vessels operating worldwide. They use its online tracking and information software, Otis, for monitoring vessels and delivering information to avoid adverse weather conditions.

To enhance Otis, StratumFive is using existing and new datasets with machine learning techniques to build predictive models based on analytics and data from past voyages.

Other providers of shipping intelligence and voyage planning services have also highlighted the benefits of weather routeing in Riviera Maritime Media’s Complete Guide to ECDIS. This includes MeteoGroup, Weather Routing Inc and StormGeo, while Tidetech managing director Penny Haire has presented the voyage gains from analysing current and tidal conditions.

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