Shipping companies are increasingly using weather routeing and route optimisation services to improve voyage profitability
Owners and operators can cut fuel consumption and reduce emissions, said a panel of experts during Riviera Maritime Media’s Vessel optimisation: route planning that optimises scheduling and profitability webinar.
This event was sponsored by Wärtsilä and NAPA and held on 25 May during Riviera’s Vessel Optimisation Webinar Week.
On the panel were NAPA senior customer success manager for shipping solutions Ossi Mettälä, Neste ship performance manager Risto Kariranta and Wärtsilä Voyage business development lead for fleet optimisation Jacob Snoer Iversen.
They discussed how weather routeing and integrated voyage optimisation solutions can help owners and operators to reduce fuel expenditure and meet tougher emissions-reduction regulations, in line with IMO’s proposed strategy for the industry.
Mr Iversen highlighted three key points to effective voyage optimisation during his presentation. He said an integrated approach is required covering all aspects of a voyage from planning, implementation and post-voyage analysis.
Solutions must also provide greater levels of transparency and operational methods of decarbonising the industry, said Mr Iversen. “Visibility and collaboration should be the full focus for the sustainable road ahead,” he said. “Decarbonisation will be important for all stakeholders going forward.”
Mr Iversen introduced Wärtsilä Voyage’s Fleet Operations Solution (FOS) as an integrated service that combines ECDIS with electronic navigational charts (ENCs) and digital publications. These are grouped with weather routeing and optimisation software, ship-to-shore reporting and onshore tracking of fleet performance software.
“We connect all the dots for safer navigation, reducing the crews’ workload and optmising routes for vessels,” said Mr Iversen. “We brought this together in one software. We work with Weathernews Inc on the weather routeing and can work with third parties through application interfaces.”
He explained how Navi-Planner is the main component of FOS. “It makes voyage planning faster. The software can be installed remotely and requires almost no capital investment,” Mr Iversen said.
“Voyage planning is automatically done on up-to-date nautical charts and route optimisation is based on weather information and vessel specifications.”
There are checklists for planning the route to avoid hazards and onshore managers can monitor the voyage. “Onshore staff can mirror what is happening on the bridge,” Mr Iversen said. “This increases visibility, so everyone is working from the same page.”
Mr Mettälä explained further the importance of connecting data and sharing information between different sources and stakeholders. Voyage optimisation services need to bring together information on the vessel, how it is operated, weather along a route and stakeholder requirements.
It has not always been done this way though. “Traditionally, the scheduling and operation planning is done with static distance tables and fuel oil consumption curves,” said Mr Mettälä.
“But, the problem field is a complex multi-domain environment interfacing with sea and weather, business, and technical aspects. There are several stakeholders with conflicting interests.”
A solution is to enable users of optimisation software to add their own parameters and then run the program. “Define the voyage fundamentals and let the optimisation solve the rest,” said Mr Mettälä.
The main challenge is to couple the commercial and nautical constraints with vessel-specific characteristics. This complexity is beyond manual human capabilities. Therefore, NAPA voyage optimisation uses advanced algorithms and hydrodynamic calculations with naval architectural models of the ships.
“The outcome is sensitivity analytics to help users understand what the impact of voyage optimisation is,” said Mr Mettälä, “and how it affects available income from the possible route. Then this is used for navigation.”
This information is shared with the other stakeholders. “Onshore operators and charterers must have access to the same information – on the vessel, ENCs, weather, speed etc for more efficient vessel operations,” said Mr Mettälä.
This requires a co-operative platform with application interfaces for other systems and access for stakeholders.
NAPA voyage optimisation provides weather routeing with cost and income optimisation using target speed, propeller revolutions, engine load or estimated time of arrival.
It compares route alternatives for the shortest, weather-routed, past sailed voyages and operator’s custom routes. Routes are based on ENCs in ECDIS and can be imported or exported, then supported by NAPA’s proprietary performance models for accurate speed and fuel consumption estimates. Wind, waves, swell, sea currents, water depth and additional safety limits are all considered.
Neste’s Mr Kariranta provided a tanker operator’s perspective to voyage optimisation and weather routeing. He defined how these advanced processes improve navigational safety and shipping schedules.
“Safety is our number one priority and after that we want to work efficiently and predictably,” said Mr Kariranta. “Reliable weather routeing helps keeps us on track with fewer risks of delays.”
He said fuel optimisation was important for tankers it has on time charter, but not if there are constraints on the scheduling. “If there is extra time and less urgency, there is more possibility for optimising,” said Mr Kariranta.
Neste uses NAPA weather routeing and vessel optimisation to prevent its ships from sailing into rough weather and seas. “There is greater safety, and it is economical to avoid bad weather,” he said. Neste uses forecasts for weather and waves in its voyage planning.
Attendees of the webinar agreed on using weather routeing to reduce fuel consumption and avoid hazardous sea and weather conditions. When asked whether sailing a longer distance in favourable weather conditions leads to a lower total fuel consumption compared with a voyage sailed over a shorter period in unfavourable weather conditions, 83% voted for Yes, that is our experience when you average it out. The other 17% of attendees chose No that is not our experience when you average it out.
Mr Kariranta provided an example of a tanker sailing from Canada to Singapore where the ship did a route 129 km longer than the shortest possible route.
“This resulted in 3-4% less fuel, so a lot of benefits were gained from going around the low-pressure system for more favourable winds and currents,” Mr Kariranta explained.
In conclusion, he said industry perception of weather routeing has changed over time. It is seen as “a more acceptable solution for charterers and owners” as it can be adapted. He expects more demand for vessel optimisation services in the future as IMO implements emissions-reduction strategies.
“Our industry will need to use all measures to reduce fuel consumption and emissions,” said Mr Kariranta. “Voyage optimisation solutions are low-hanging fruit. We do not need a massive investment on ships to reach these [environmental] goals – it is about adjusting operations to reach these goals.”
There was also the general opinion among delegates that IMO should consider weather routeing in its carbon operation intensity index (CII), which could come into force from 2023. 82% of respondents voted yes when asked: Should IMO’s new CII confer a better rating on vessels that deploy weather routeing to optimise voyages?
Attendees were also asked is IMO’s emission reporting calculation method Average Efficiency Ratio (AER) is not taking into account the efforts of those optimising voyages with proper weather routing tools? 10% strongly agree with this comment, 43% agreed, 27% said it would neither help nor hinder, 14% disagreed and 6% strongly disagreed.
There was also a question on navigational safety. Around 65% of delegates thought their navigators currently see or feel there is a mismatch between safe navigation and weather route optimisation in their voyage plan process, the other 35% do not.
There were poll questions covering route planning and scheduling. In one, attendees were asked if they were willing to rely on a system that optimises scheduling and routeing. 70% responded I can take recommendations from a system, but I make the final call, 24% said I am willing to let a system optimise scheduling and routeing and 6% said no. I trust my personal experience and judgement.
Delegates were asked what they favour for route planning and schedule optimisation, of which 55% said they mainly use systems where all aspects are considered and automatically optimised, 38% mostly use static tables, but some parts are automated and optimised and 7% favour static tables and performance curves.
Attendees were then asked what prevents them from using route optimisation software. 45% said there are no barriers, and they were already using a route optimisation system, 28% said they needed to respect a previously defined route, 17% do not see the benefit due to short and restricted routes and 10% thought it was too much paperwork to change a route.
In another poll question, delegates were asked: How would you characterise visibility/communication between vessels and onshore staff when it comes to route optimisation? 8% voted 100% of the time they are aligned, 23% thought 75% of the time they are aligned, 43% suggested 50% of the time they are aligned, 11% said 25% of the time they are aligned and 16% ticked <25% of the time they are aligned.
On Riviera’s Vessel optimisation: route planning that optimises scheduling and profitability webinar panel were (left to right) NAPA senior customer success manager for shipping solutions Ossi Mettälä, Neste ship performance manager Risto Kariranta and Wärtsilä Voyage business development lead for fleet optimisation Jacob Snoer Iversen