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Unlocking the power of vessel operations data: The journey towards efficiency and sustainability

In this blog, we take a deep dive into the factors we use to predict the performance of a vessel and then find the best route. Any proven ship operator who wants to optimise their vessel should use this checklist before embarking on any voyage. Whether you are looking to fine-tune your performance or embrace sustainability, this list holds the keys to unlock the full potential of your vessel's journey.

The art of efficient ship operations has preoccupied maritime commerce for centuries. Despite drastic changes over the years, from vessel design, to sustainability initiatives, to geopolitical tensions, ship operators still rely on the same fundamental concept: finding the optimal route and speed to minimise voyage costs, while ensuring the safety of crew and cargo.  

Planning a successful voyage is all about predicting crucial factors, which can influence its success. This is where a vessel operations checklist comes into play, as it can help you:

  • Work out the optimal route and speed, to reduce bunker costs and minimise emissions
  • Find a route that is navigable and complies with International and national Maritime regulations
  • Keeps the vessel safe in poor weather conditions

While the objectives and outcomes of creating an operations checklist have remained relatively unchanged, the way we predict a vessel’s performance has been profoundly affected by modern shipping. As technology has evolved, so has the potential to optimise these predictions. At ZeroNorth, we leverage the power of AI and machine learning to develop a dynamic checklist, driven by data, which enables ship operators to navigate their way towards sustainability and profitability like never before.

Imagine having the ability to predict the most fuel-efficient route, comply with navigational and regulatory constraints, and keep your vessel safe in the face of adverse weather conditions. 

In this blog, we take a deep dive into the factors we use to predict the performance of a vessel and then find the best route. Any proven ship operator who wants to optimise their vessel should use this checklist before embarking on any voyage. Whether you are looking to fine-tune your performance or embrace sustainability, this list holds the keys to unlock the full potential of your vessel's journey.

Vessel characteristics and performance

Understanding the physical attributes of a vessel is paramount when anticipating its performance in diverse conditions. Key factors such as vessel type, size, length, breadth, draught, age, previous trade, and maintenance history play a vital role in predicting fuel consumption and optimising vessel performance. By leveraging this comprehensive information, ship operators can make informed decisions to enhance fuel-efficiency, streamline operations, and ensure the vessel's optimal performance throughout its journey. 

Voyage planning

Information about the journey is essential for efficient vessel operations. Ship operators must have specific details about the voyage, including the vessel's schedule and its requirements. They need to consider any contractual constraints, such as arrival time and speed agreements, to ensure timely and efficient delivery. Moreover, compliance with the latest EU and IMO regulations is crucial. For more information on the latest legislation, check out our latest articles.

Ships must also adhere to designated routes and avoid restricted areas, for example, to avoid marine pollution. Understanding the vessel's draught and under keel clearance requirements, along with other hydrodynamics factors in relation to available water depth, is vital for a vessel's navigation safety – especially in coastal waters.

By having this comprehensive information, ship operators can plan and execute successful voyages while adhering to regulations, controlling costs and ensuring the safety of their vessels and crew. 

Bunker costs

In addition to sustainability considerations, managing bunker costs is fundamental to successful vessel operations. To achieve a favourable freight minus cost equation, a thorough analysis of voyage expenses is needed, integrating cost control strategies into the planning process. 

To predict the cost of a voyage various factors must be considered, most notably the price of bunkers. Predicting fuel costs can be challenging, due to fluctuating oil prices and market trends, therefore market analysis is an invaluable tool when making informed decisions. 

Additional expenses also need to be considered when navigating through certain areas, such as the canal transit dues, pilotage expense and towage costs, as well as additional costs in transiting high-risk areas. It is only by integrating these fees and other cost factors, the true expense of each voyage is revealed, allowing for prudent financial planning. 

At ZeroNorth, when we are presented with multiple route options, a cost-benefit analysis is performed for each one, enabling the selection of the most economical choice. This meticulous approach ensures shipping operations are efficient and cost-effective.  

Do you have the right fuel?

Getting the bunker right is not just about cost or quantity, it’s also about using the right type of fuel. You need to check if there are regulatory requirements or emission control areas on your route, as they may state you can only use a certain type of fuel. This makes for further complications, as you will have to change to a different type of fuel during the journey.

Revenue performance

Daily revenue performance, measured through Time Charter Equivalent (TCE), is vital for a ship's financial success. TCE calculates the average daily revenue by subtracting voyage expenses from revenues and dividing it by the voyage duration. Shipping companies use TCE to track profit or loss over time.

Market conditions greatly impact revenue performance. If the markets are high, a vessel can afford to go faster and still make money, even if it burns more bunker. However, if supply exceeds demand, then net profit of operating a vessel per day will drop, which means the vessel needs to go slower, to save on bunker costs.

At ZeroNorth we work out the voyage costs and then look at the markets and bunker costs to work out how fast the ship should sail. This data-driven approach empowers shipping companies to make informed decisions and navigate strategically, ensuring financial stability, even during unstable markets. 

Check your green credentials

Optimising routes and managing vessel speed not only ensures operational efficiency, it also directly influences environmental sustainability. By assessing factors such as fuel type and consumption, vessel size, distance covered, and regulatory compliance, shipping companies can calculate the emissions produced during a voyage and evaluate their environmental impact. 

This information assists when selecting the optimal route and speed to reduce fuel consumption and minimise greenhouse gas emissions. As upcoming EU regulations are set to impact shipowners' profits, adhering to these guidelines becomes even more critical.

Weather conditions and safety

Weather conditions have a significant impact on vessel operations, requiring careful attention and planning. Incorporating weather data, both seasonal and forecasted, allows shipping companies to predict conditions along the voyage route. 

By combining weather information with our Fuel Model, fuel consumption can be estimated and optimised, ensuring operational efficiency and safety. This helps vessels navigate challenging weather situations while keeping crew and cargo in safe conditions along the route.

As you can see, effective vessel operations rely on comprehensive checklists. As the maritime industry evolves and new regulations come into play, staying informed and adapting to changing requirements becomes a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’. By embracing these checklists and leveraging the power of data and analytics, shipping companies can navigate the challenges of vessel operations with confidence, contributing to a more sustainable and successful maritime future.

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