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Kickstarting decarbonisation in shipping: integrated weather routing to fully optimise operations

Weather has always been an important factor in determining voyage routing. Current weather conditions can have a huge implication on the safety of crew and the efficiency of a vessel’s operations.

In this article, we will explore why we believe that integrated weather routing is vital for enabling greater decision making and better safety, sustainability, and commercial outcomes, with a particular focus on how ZeroNorth is moving the dial for weather routing with its new offering and 24/7 weather advisory service. 

We will also examine how we are aiming to unlock a new shared understanding of safe weather routing across our industry and explain how weather routing can help to underpin the industry’s decarbonisation trajectory.

A piece of the puzzle

While the importance of weather routing is reasonably well understood by commercial operators, new technologies are changing the role and influence that weather-conscious decision-making can have on a vessel, voyage, or fleet.

Weather routing through interconnected and integrated data is having an increasing impact on commerciality. These new solutions are bringing commercial aspect together with safety, which further incentives business outcomes ultimately improving our ability to decarbonise.

In many cases, siloed recommendations for different factors inhibit full optimisation for operators. With the advent of real time recommendations operators can work with masters and crews to dynamically optimise a voyage and update as factors change, securing full optimisation across all aspects of voyage, vessel, and bunker optimisation.

This is particularly important when it comes to saving fuel and emissions; given the complex nature of the oceans, it’s important that optimised routes are actually sailed and executed by masters, and that the sector begins to take a more active hand in iterative and ongoing voyage optimisation.

While the future of weather routing will continue to enable masters to fulfil their critical role of vessel and crew safety management, we now believe that our industry’s data and software ecosystem has matured to the point that the benefits of weather routing can now be pursued by both operator and master – elevating weather routing from being an operational consideration to also a commercial one. 

 Making weather a priority

This elevation of weather routing as a decision-making lever is significant. It means that more stakeholders within a shipping company will be looking at weather performance above and beyond the safety baseline.

To support this, ZeroNorth platform which has weather routing automatically integrated into its voyage planning recommendations, enables users to master the weather for safety, sustainability, and commercial outcomes. This means that every route that is created automatically considers a range of weather factors for safety and commercial upside and transparently calculates CO2 and USD impact.

By bringing relevant data into one platform, multiple vendors are no longer required to maintain safety, improve revenue, and cut CO2 all at once. Operators are empowered to reach the full potential of a vessel and create an optimised voyage plan that is executable with a click of a button.

Integrated weather routing, a measurable differentiator

The integrated weather routing feature means that every route recommendation that our software generates considers the weather conditions a vessel will encounter. Moreover, by pairing this with our powerful digital twin capabilities, we can now use our software to make recommendations based on a full picture of the reality a vessel faces.  Last year ZeroNorth acquired Propulsion Dynamics, and has developed the industry’s leading digital twin models, ensuring that weather routing advice is interconnected with actual vessel performance. 

In an effort to think bigger about our industry’s improvement and weather routing as a way to optimise operations, we have developed a weather validation framework, which evaluates every route, no matter if that route is generated by ZeroNorth or a third party. The route is evaluated for safety based on a given set of parameters defined by customers. If a route segment appears risky or dangerous, the relevant weather parameters are displayed on screen when planning so risks can be avoided. This would happen, for example, if the significant wave height is above the agreed threshold or in the case that a vessel’s minimum safe distance to a tropical storm or extreme weather event is breached.

ZeroNorth has also launched a new 24/7 weather advisory service as part of its Professional Services offering. Our new weather advisory team comprises seasoned meteorologists and former mariners who are available support customers – including operators and masters – to navigate any situation that a vessel might encounter and ensure that recommended optimised routes are acted on to help a vessel reach its full potential in all weather. The support function also offers a ‘do it for you service’ where our team can act on behalf of customers to optimise voyages and vessels, and master the weather.

 Underpinning decarbonisation

Finally, we want to share our reflections on why integrated weather routing will be an enabling force for the industry’s decarbonisation trajectory. Every ton of fuel saved today is an immediate emissions reduction that we can unlock by optimising operations and by using integrated weather routing,

As the industry begins to use cleaner fuels, comprehensive voyage planning will be critical in helping the industry to manage its transition to the imminent operating reality where zero carbon fuels are many times more expensive than the fossil default.

In effect, and in the context of a tremendously increasing cost base for owners, operators, and charterers finding fuel efficiencies and optimisations on every voyage represents more money that the sector can inject into its clean fuel transition. 

This is an exciting time for data and digitalisation in shipping. Although we will never be able to totally control the weather, we believe we are close to shipping being able to master and capitalise on it in its commercial operations. Interconnected data platforms provide us with a means to grasp this future and incorporating weather into decision-making with more granularity and precision will create a safer, cleaner shipping industry.