Many things can affect voyage performance, resulting in less efficiency and, in worst cases, putting the crew and cargo at risk. Shipping lines use a suite of technologies to determine optimal routes and increase vessel performance.
Among these technologies is weather routing, which helps vessels find the best speed and route to complete a journey as efficiently as possible while also guaranteeing the ship, crew, and cargo safety.
Weather routing is a service typically provided by commercial companies and can be tailored for maritime commercial usage or sailing. Weather routing helps protect owners and charterers from speed claims while also improving fuel efficiency and speeding up voyages. Weather routing finds applications in race modeling and adventure planning for recreational purposes.
Weather routing takes advantage of various technologies and helps shipping lines meet their goals. Below are four technologies that are commonly used for weather routing.
Wayfinder by Sofar Ocean
Boasting the largest open-ocean network of weather sensors, Sofar Ocean’s Wayfinder can provide forecasts 20 to 50% more accurate than NOAA and ECMWF.
Aside from helping plot a route that is safe, fuel-efficient, and fast, Wayfinder can also assist in complying with the ever-changing fleet compliance needs. Wayfinder achieves this by generating a digital twin of a vessel based on relevant data. This digital twin is a simulation that shows the potential behavior, lead time, and fuel consumption of a ship should it follow a particular route.
Moreover, Wayfinder’s route planning goes beyond the weather. It’s capable of considering metrics such as market impact, contract terms, and strategic initiatives. Wayfinder helps ocean freight companies find the best route possible and streamline their supply chain through these features.
Combining excellent weather forecasting, an accurate simulation of the vessel, and the power to take into account business metrics, Wayfinder is a piece of technology that pushes weather routing to the next level.
Navi-Planner by Transas
Onboard voyage planning can take as long as five hours, but with Navi-Planner, the entire process can take less than 30 minutes. Navi-Planner’s speed comes from accessing the world’s largest maritime databases and artificial intelligence.
Building upon the industry-standard Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS), Transas provides seafarers with intuitive displays showing weather conditions and possible maritime traffic for prospective routes. It allows users to choose an optimized path between two points based on weather conditions and current hazards such as accidents or impassable areas. Navi-Planner also updates its charts based on the availability of real-time data.
When used alongside weather routing services, Navi-Planner can further improve security. It allows onshore operators to monitor vessels remotely, record near-misses, and support incident investigation and playback.
SVM Vessel Scheduling System (SVM VSS)
Another way to augment weather routing is by using a vessel scheduling system, such as the one offered by Solverminds. This VSS is an integrated system that combines relevant market conditions, operational updates across all levels of the organization, and weather conditions.
The SVM VSS ensures shipping lines receive the latest information they need to make decisions on the fly. Aside from providing all essential information, it also sends notifications to the pertinent stakeholders and keeps them in the loop.
SVM VSS comes with a proforma service creation that allows real-time consolidation of invoices and inventories, particularly with a vessel’s port rotation. This platform also automatically integrates with a coastal schedule scenario builder, making vessel scheduling easier.
It also comes with an alert engine for change vessel or port rotation incidents, often coordinated with the corresponding port authority. This feature helps both shipping line operators and port controllers implement their sustainability strategies, informing vessels if there has been any change—which cuts down on associated costs from an unexpected omission or delay changes at the port.
GRIB (GRIdded Binary)
General Regularly-Distributed Information in Binary form, or GRIB, is a data format typically used in meteorology to store historical weather data and create forecasts. It is a concise, self-containing record of relevant information, with this particular format already recognized as an industry standard by the World Meteorological Organization.
As a file format, GRIB can be likened to a two-part data logging system. Its header section provides a description of the overall record being kept, while the actual binary data contains numerical values for weather parameters. GRIBs only collect limited surface data such as wind direction and speed, wave strength and direction, and surface pressure. However, they can prove more helpful in supplementing weather routing.
Although these are self-containing records that could not be easily accessed or utilized by an external party, GRIBs remain popular for modern weather routing technologies. Usually, a routing platform from a specific provider uses the same schema or strategy in recording information, making their GRIB records easily accessible through the use of customized encoders and decoders.
As such, GRIB is used for various public and private meteorological and maritime observation systems. It is currently used for the commercial Geographic Information System (GIS) app ArcGIS and the weather forecasting platform Weather4D.
While modern weather routing appears streamlined and convenient for its end users, there’s a lot of technology involved in making it work. Some of the examples listed above remain widely used in several industries—logistics and transport, meteorology, instrumentation, communications, etc.
If you’re looking to deliver added value to your stakeholders, consider adopting the weather routing technologies identified above.