How weather routing can be used to optimise ship performance

How weather routing can be used to optimise ship performance
Imge courtesy of CSG Ltd  (www.cheapsurfgear.com)

Avoiding severe weather is a simple way for a vessel to minimise unnecessary fuel consumption. However, according to COACH Solutions, often the vessel has no information about the business priorities and will therefore have a hard time selecting the most profitable and fuel efficient route. 

Shipowners and operators are faced with an array of advanced technologies to optimise vessel performance, but one of the most basic parameters influencing a vessel’s fuel efficiency and emissions over any given voyage is the weather. Weather has a significant impact on the resistance of the vessel though the water, which is ultimately responsible for the vessel’s overall consumption.

Anders Bruun, CEO of Danish based, COACH Solutions, says that he sees companies jumping straight into deploying highly sophisticated solutions to optimise their ship performance, without first considering some of the primary factors affecting ship performance. He believes that often, “It is the basic stuff that creates the best ROI in the short term,” he told listeners of a webinar hosted by VPO Global last month.

The constant change in weather can be responsible for increasing the cost of the voyage due to higher fuel consumption, but also altering the ship’s ETA as it navigates wave swells and difficult currents. In addition, severe weather and storms can place the ship, its crew, and cargo at unnecessary risk.

Weather routing identifies the best route that is safe, fuel and cost efficient. In order to determine the most optimal route, weather routing must consider a number of factors that will affect the performance of the ship on a specific voyage such as currents, wind, waves and the current performance capabilities of the vessel.

A vessel sailing in rough seas will experience higher fuel consumption than anticipated as a result of the increase in resistance. According to COACH Solutions’ Ulla Knudsen, rerouting the vessel to avoid this weather is one option, but if it means travelling through an Emission Control Area (ECA), the higher price of fuel needed to sail in compliance with ECA requirements could outweigh the cost of burning more fuel outside the ECA.

However, avoiding both bad weather and sailing around the ECA could significantly increase the length of the voyage. In some cases, it may make sense for the vessel to sail its intended route, as the added resistance from the weather could be less costly than changing routes, as long as there is no risk to the safety of the ship and its crew.

Optimal weather routing requires the Captain to consider other factors impacting a vessel’s performance. Biofouling and vessel speed will affect the overall cost and time of a voyage. In one scenario highlighted by Ms Knudsen, she explained that if a vessel is faced with a bad weather forecast, careful consideration has to be put on which options the vessel has i.e. can it outrun the weather and what is the cost, should an alternative route be considered or should the vessel delay its departure. In all the cases it is vital to quickly be able to analyse what the extra bunker cost be versus the value of time (time charter equivalent or TCE).

Weather routing with COACH

In order to determine the most cost and time efficient route for a vessel, the aforementioned factors should be analysed as efficiently as possible.  “The vessels need to be constantly updated, so they won’t be waiting around for outdated information” confirmed Ms Knudsen.

COACH Solutions has developed a Voyage Optimisation service that creates the most optimal route scenarios for a vessel, based on key parameters such as bunker cost, the TCE, hull performance (including fouling), and weather. Each vessel that signs up to the service is assigned a model that uses sophisticated algorithms to help the tool determine the cost of the proposed route and alternative voyages based on these key parameters. The system quickly calculates and immediately displays the route cost for a number of speeds and ETAs depending on what business priorities have been entered by the user.

COACH’s Voyage Optimisation service provides a clear comparison of the profit speed (figure 1 green bar) with a range of other speeds (figure 1 blue bars). The operator can consider whether to make the savings as highlighted by the profit speed or whether to opt for the CP speed and make a claim if the vessel underperforms. According to COACH, the tool always alerts the user if the vessel is not performing according to the charter party requirements.

The model for each vessel is updated constantly to ensure a continuous and accurate record of the performance of the vessel.

Figure 1. Courtesy of COACH Solutions

Vessels can be monitored online, bridging the gap between ship and shore. COACH Voyage Optimisation gives operators full control over planning, budgeting and performing voyages – all accessible through the COACH Online platform.

On the online portal, the user can view the entire fleet in one place, making it simple and easy to see how vessels are performing.

COACH’s Voyage Optimisation tool provides complete transparency for owners, operators and ship management companies as all parties can access the data displayed by the COACH platform. Companies can also carry out their own analyses and interpretation of the data, helping them to make better data driven decisions.

Case study – COACH helps Hafnia save fuel

One of COACH’s long-term clients is the world’s largest product tanker operator Hafnia. They have been working together for the last three years.

According to head of performance at Hafnia Ship Management, Michael Rasmussen, “Modern performance optimisation all starts with proper weather routing.”

Mr Rasmussen says that weather routing is the foundation for the performance management system. Hafnia uses this as the first step in planning its routes.

Speaking about the decision to go for COACH’s weather routing solution, Mr Rasmussen said, ““We  have a great co-operation with COACH. Whenever we say we would like to see x y z, we talk to COACH, and we get it done.”

As a result of COACH’s technology, Hafnia can obtain instant weather routing, rather than waiting hours for the results.

COACH Solutions continues to develop its platform and is currently among others working together with ShippingLab for developing automated near costal routing guidance using navigational charts. COACH Solutions was in the summer of 2020 acquired by Kongsberg who assist COACH Solution in continuing their growth.

The webinar hosted by VPO Global and sponsored by COACH Solutions can be viewed online by clicking here.