Expertise of ex-seafarers crucial for reliable ship routing advice
Trust arises when you speak each other's language. Each sector has its own specific characteristics and terminology, and this naturally includes shipping. Those who work on board know and feel what wind and waves do to a ship.
Whoever sails as a senior officer has a deep sense of what a ship can handle and what performance a vessel can provide. For us at MeteoGroup it is important to have former seafarers in our weather rooms who use their knowledge and skills to deliver premium route advice.
Eefje Verhoeven, Senior Route Analyst, says: "Ten years ago a route analyst was not yet such a familiar concept. Nowadays it is not only important to avoid rough conditions but above all to get the performance of the ships as high as possible. A lot of customers want to know how their ship performs, fuel- and speed-based." Remko Vermeer, Master Mariner, adds: "Monitoring is very important, because it provides cost efficiency."
Choose your own form of advice
Eefje and Remko are a part of the extensive nautical department of MeteoGroup, and together with 26 colleagues form the Shipping Team. These are all nautical route analysts with experience as officers in maritime transportation. Seven of them have a certificate as a captain, and most of them are licensed as Master 'all ships' (master mariner).
Charterers, shipping companies and ship owners can use MeteoGroup's information in many ways. There is the SPOS software, the Ship Performance Optimization System, with which the captain can calculate his/her optimal route. Approximately 5,000 ships are equipped with this software. One can also opt for our Fleetguard service: we request the vessel/captain to send us a position report every day, including fuel consumption, and based on this information our system generates an automatic product that indicates how the vessel has performed up to that moment. We currently make a daily status report for over 800 ships. Those who want advice about the optimal route to follow choose Routeguard, a service that is provided to about 350 ships.
Those who use Routeguard will be in direct contact with our former seafarers. The seniors/master mariners first and foremost find out, in consultation with the customer, what the exact requirements are, and as Remko says "Together with the Sales department, we step into the 'onboarding process'.”
“A customer often has several ships that he wants to equip with Routeguard. We then have to learn everything about that fleet and find out what the key aspects are. Sometimes it is about the fastest crossing and at other times they need to arrive at a tight prearranged moment. Or the goal might be to cover the route as economically as possible.” Eefje explains further: "We always start with a trial period to explore if we can offer what the client asks for. In this time span, the senior route analysts are in very close contact with the customer. It is noted and understood that customers prefer to speak to someone who has worked in a position in shipping."
From model data to practical advice
All forecasts start with numerical weather prediction model data that passes a complex in-house post-processing procedure. This post-processing results in a quality boost and detailed data for all our different clients. These data can be used and edited by the nautical meteorologists, and this is also a point where the expertise of our ex-seafarers can be very important. They are aware of the routes at sea, the obstacles, sea currents, straits controlled by pirates and so forth, and they understand the processes on board. They know very well how the bridge is being used to change routes or change fuel or speed. As Remko says, "You cannot advise a different speed and course every hour, so we provide advisories that are feasible in practice."
Very high waves and swell on the bow of a ship will affect sailing speed. You may be able to shift the route a bit, causing the ship to lie across the waves for some time. But in doing so, you have to take into account the tendency of the ship to start rolling, swinging. Transverse incoming swell can force a captain to change course to avoid risk of damage.