Weather accounts for 80 per cent of the impact on vessel performance

Weather accounts for 80 per cent of the impact on vessel performance

The shipping industry risks wasting billions of dollars on vessel optimisation services that fail to deliver efficiency improvements, due to a lack of understanding on the impact weather can have on vessel performance, warns StratumFive.

According to Stuart Nicholls, CEO, StratumFive, weather accounts for 80 per cent of the impact on vessel performance, but most voyage analysts are not taking this into account.

Optimising vessel performance is becoming increasingly complex as shipowners and operators have access to an abundance of technologies, monitoring solutions, and datasets, that claim to improve fuel efficiency of vessels. However, according to StratumFive, some complex solutions attempt to simultaneously optimise every aspect of a voyage and end up losing sight of the simple fact that fuel consumption is a function of the resistance that the vessel has to overcome.

This resistance is a function of several other factors, such as vessel block coefficient, loading and trim, water density, currents, waves, wind, and biofouling.

According to StratumFive, currents, waves and wind affect every voyage. Resistance can increase by 50-100 per cent when operating in challenging conditions. MAN Energy Solutions’ analysis of trading conditions for a typical 140,000 DWT bulk carrier shows that on some routes, the increased resistance, or sea margin, can reach extreme values up to 220%.

Mr Nicholls said: “The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80 per cent of the effects come from 20 per cent of the causes. We believe that the combined effects of weather account for around 80 per cent of the effects on vessel performance, whereas other factors make up the remaining 20 per cent. While the 20 per cent remains important and can create important marginal gains, the impact of weather significantly outweighs them, but is often side-lined or ignored.

StratumFive believes that businesses are missing out on significant gains in energy efficiency because of this. By voyaging through less-than-ideal weather conditions, ships also risk damage to their cargo, crew and passenger safety, and may deliver inaccurate arrival times.

“Shipping is, ultimately, a question of time and distance, and we need to stay focused on the factors that have the most impact on these; weather is at the top of the list. 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” added Mr Nicholls.

Huw Davies, principal of meteorology, StratumFive, said: “Weather affects the safety and performance of vessels, cargo and seafarers. Forecast accuracy has greatly improved and weather forecasts are now some 20 per cent more accurate than they were only five years ago. Accurate, detailed weather forecasts support effective planning and operations and have a profound effect on a voyage’s safety and efficiency. This not only saves time, money and fuel, but also minimises the environmental impact of our ships, and most importantly keeps the crew safe.”