The Risks of Not Using Accurate Weather Routing on Fuel Consumption
Forward-thinking charterers, owners, and vessel managers use modern approaches to weather routing to help ensure their routes are optimized. Rather than automatically taking the shortest route, they take the “best route” because they know that sailing the shortest distance between two ports isn’t always the quickest or most fuel-efficient way.
How Weather Routing Works (A Quick Introduction)
Weather routing is crucial to help ships avoid adverse weather conditions. It also helps ensure each voyage is optimized for peak performance. From pre-voyage planning to compliance and beyond, weather routing supports sustainable, cost-effective shipping, and can help you to reduce fuel consumption.
There are many variables, which makes it hard to compare two journeys. However, the choice of route can make a massive difference to the profitability of a voyage. For example, when Masters are passing Skagerrak on their way to the east coast of the United States, they will typically ask for advice on the next part of the route. They can either pass just above the British Isles or sail through the English Channel. In theory, a master can knock 35 hours off his journey if he doesn’t go through the English Channel, but the weather can be worse on the alternative route, so this mitigates the time-saving. Knowing which route is best will vary depending on conditions, which is why accurate weather data is essential.
The goal is not to avoid all adverse weather but to find the best balance. It’s about minimizing the time of transit and fuel consumption, without placing the vessel at risk. The savings in operational costs come about by reducing transit times, reducing fuel consumption, and minimizing cargo and hull damage.
For example, vessels that are not taking advantage of dynamic speed routing to sail efficiently can end up navigating around bad weather, rather than slowing down or speeding up to avoid it. This approach can mean more fuel has to be used and, inevitably, emissions are increased. By not using accurate weather routing, it results in:
● Unoptimized routes, resulting in unnecessary fuel consumption
● Increase in emissions, caused by using more fuel
● Increased risks of not meeting the KPIs of the voyage, including costs and ETAs, due to adverse weather
Optimum weather routing is the art and science of developing the “best route” for a ship based on the current weather forecasts, ship characteristics, and cargo requirements.