Next-generation weather routeing can help box ship operators save money in the face of dramatically rising fuel costs when the 2020 sulphur cap comes into force, says Tidetech managing director Penny Haire
Liner operators want to understand how they can combine management of fuel consumption with route efficiency to ensure the best possible environmental profile.
This demands data inputs for route planning, voyage optimisation and post-mission analysis. Too often there is a lack of data to put fuel consumption and other key parameters into context – whether before a voyage, during it or afterwards.
With the cost of compliance rising and the price of bunker fuel likely to rise dramatically when the 2020 global sulphur cap takes effect, there is an increasing interest in tools that can make a positive contribution to operating margins.
Smarter navigation using weather routeing to help operators maintain more consistent vessel speed and schedule-keeping has more than just the potential to save money and reduce fuel consumption and air emissions, it is proven to do so.
There has been a tangible growth in interest across the last six to nine months in using metocean data in voyage optimisation, from both the bigger players and smaller operators interested in understanding vessel performance. This is being driven by a combination of regulation and operational demands and is also pushed along by the exponential growth in satellite bandwidth.
Another driver is the increased use of management systems that can combine layers of information to display a complete fleet operation on one dashboard. A superintendent who manages 20-30 vessels can easily integrate weather, tides and currents with vessel data.
Using enterprise-grade cloud-based servers means tidal models can be produced in minutes which would have previously taken a day on a super-computer – and group files delivered for ingestion into onboard systems.
Benefits not always understood
While it seems obvious that weather can have a big effect on performance, the total benefit that can be derived from this data is not always understood.
The confusion stems in part from the misconception that weather services only have a benefit when sailing in blue water. There is an assumption in many operators’ minds that once they are in coastal waters or traffic separation schemes that this part of the voyage cannot be optimised.
The data that can now be delivered is high enough resolution to enable operators to optimise the coastal and regional legs of a voyage and gain more benefit than in ocean waters, where conditions are more predictable.
From our own simulations run for shipowners on their routes we have proven that on the North Atlantic there are more potential cost savings from optimising against currents in UK coastal and northern European waters, than there are across the whole Atlantic.
Armed with that information, liner operators can predict ETA more accurately and use vessel speed and power settings to arrive on schedule, even when it changes. This offers them the ability to save a lot of money but too often this opportunity is unrealised because there is a focus on the route rather than the speed of the vessel.
Not limiting thinking to the idea that voyage optimisation is only about deepsea shipping means there is a whole different class of vessel that could benefit, and the usefulness could extend to landside operations.
We can generate Metocean data at any given waypoint to provide weather, wave and current values along the whole voyage track which is ideally suited to commercial post-voyage analysis.
Tidetech is seeing an increasing number of requests for local and regional tide and current data, suggesting that more and more operators are beginning to recognise the opportunity of optimisation. And this opportunity exists as much for liner operators sailing the biggest container ships as those who trade intra-regional box routes.
Even so, the industry is still at the start of what should be much wider adoption and needs to overcome the knowledge gap in the application and value of weather data for the industry to reap the benefits.