In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Elias J. Makris, Director European Business Development at Weathernews Athens, Greece, delves into the transformative role of AI systems in weather forecasting. Guided by experienced meteorologists and former mariners, they are at the forefront of shaping the future of weather intelligence solutions.
akris emphasizes that their focus extends beyond mere weather prediction. Instead, they prioritize foreseeing the impacts on human and industrial activities. By providing proactive solutions to minimize risks, he underscores the significance of adopting a human-centric approach to interpretation.
SAFETY4SEA: What are the top priorities in your agenda for the next 5 years?
Elias Makris: At the heart of Weathernews’ mission, established 39 years ago, is a commitment to safeguarding life. In response to the dynamic challenges posed by climate change, our foremost agenda is dedicated to environmental protection. Moreover, we’re leveraging our extensive collection of weather and voyage data gathered over multiple decades. Our strategic focus is on converting millions and billions of these data points into actionable insights, accelerating the decarbonization of the shipping industry, and ensuring vessel safety and commercial optimization. This involves optimising routes and enhancing vessel efficiency, empowering users with comprehensive and innovative solutions to navigate market dynamics, commercial factors, performance metrics, and real-time weather data. This approach guarantees the delivery of accurate information to vessels based on evolving priorities. The strategic roadmap we have outlined involves a continued focus on this direction. By utilising AI systems, managed by seasoned meteorologists and ex-mariners, we’re shaping the next generation of weather intelligence solutions. Weathernews is not only investing in cutting-edge technologies but also nurturing talented individuals. Our aim is to extend our impact beyond the shipping sector, reaching households globally, and contributing to a sustainable future for all.
S4S: Tell us a few words about the technologies and methodologies you use to gather and analyze weather data. How do you ensure comprehensive coverage and accuracy for weather forecasting across different geographical locations?
E.M.: In the intricate world of weather forecasting, precision begins with the collection and analysis of real-time data. Weathernews employs a sophisticated approach to ensure accuracy and comprehensive coverage across diverse geographical locations. At its core, a prognostic model is a complex set of equations that unravels the atmospheric state over time. To initiate this process, we rely on accurate starting conditions—temperature, wind, pressure—crucial for calculating the trajectory from the current atmospheric state to a future one. Meteorologists at Weathernews access a multitude of quality-checked information sources, encompassing land-based and sea buoys observations, satellites, and radars. Notably, we integrate observations from the vessels we service, subjecting them to rigorous quality checks before incorporation. Distinguishing us further, Weathernews is the sole private weather entity globally with two continuously orbiting satellites, enriching our data pool. This wealth of information undergoes continuous monitoring and meticulous blending in our model, ensuring the delivery of precise forecasts. To enhance our methodology, our prognostic model development team consistently reviews data assessment processes, striving for efficiency and global observation coverage.
S4S: How do your weather services impact the maritime industry, and how do you tailor your services to meet stakeholders’ specific needs?
E.M.: With a focus on ensuring safety for all seafarers and contributing substantially to each company’s optimization and sustainability, we address a diverse range of challenges. Recognizing the unique challenges faced by each customer, we tailor our services to meet diverse and evolving needs. Safety remains paramount, supporting a suite of solutions designed to address specific maritime requirements. Our comprehensive offerings include cost optimization, performance management, monitoring, decarbonization for greener shipping, and navigational assistance. Significantly, our optimised and safety routing service has been successfully applied across a spectrum of vessels, encompassing various sizes and capacities. When engaging with our customers, we prioritise a personalised approach. We begin by identifying their most important needs, building a tailored package that aligns with their daily operational challenges. Our teams are committed to not just meeting but exceeding the distinct requirements of our stakeholders, promoting safety, efficiency, and success in the maritime industry.
S4S: How do you contribute to or align with initiatives promoting environmental sustainability and climate action?
E.M.: The impacts of rapid climate change are no longer limited to Hollywood movies; they’re a global reality. From extreme heat waves to unprecedented snowfall in the centre of Athens, we’ve witnessed nature’s disruptions. In Athens, where I live, the intensity of recent weather events is unforgettable—floodings, wildfires, and an unseasonably warm November. While there’s room for improvement in current regulations from entities like IMO and the EU on CO2 emissions, Weathernews responded instantly. We’ve developed solutions that not only enable users to monitor vessel emissions but, crucially, empower them to set decarbonization targets. These targets can be dynamically managed in alignment with commercial interests. In recognizing the nuanced balance between commercial and environmental priorities, we do acknowledge the industry’s reality. Our innovations encourage the shipping market to find a balance, aligning commercial success with environmental responsibility.
S4S: How do you envision the future of weather forecasting, and what role does Weathernews aim to play in shaping it?
E.M.: As human civilization advances and daily life becomes increasingly weather-sensitive amid the complexities of an unpredictable climate crisis, I think that a shift in the approach to weather forecasting is imperative. Beyond predicting weather phenomena, it’s crucial to anticipate the impacts on human and industrial activities, offering proactive solutions to mitigate risks. Weathernews, positioned as a global leader among private weather providers, is committed to this transformation. Our multi-million-dollar investment strategy goes beyond AI technology development. We prioritise the recruitment and training of weather advisors and meteorologists who can assess AI results and develop tailored forecasting solutions aligned with our customers’ needs. In shaping the future of weather forecasting, Weathernews not only leads with pioneering solutions but also promotes a human-centric approach to interpretation. Our widespread presence and satisfied customers demonstrate the significant role we play in advancing weather forecasting.
S4S: In your view, what has been a remarkable development/Innovation you have seen on the sustainability front in the maritime industry?
E.M.: Ensuring sustainability in the maritime industry requires solutions that stand the test of time without compromising our core business. A hot topic in recent years has been the ongoing decarbonization efforts that significantly impact the shipping industry. Efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions include using greener fuels, optimising vessel routes to cut CO2 emissions, all while keeping each company cost-effective. Weathernews has been leading in these initiatives, contributing since the early stages and increasing efforts in response to upcoming EU ETS regulations.
S4S: Do you have any projects/ plans that you would like to share with industry stakeholders?
E.M.: As mentioned above, Weathernews instantly reacted to the new needs with regards to CII, EU-MRV and EU ETS. But we don’t stop there. We’re actively developing more solutions for fuel and route optimization. Additionally, we’re exploring ways to reach more markets and individuals, aiming to increase awareness about climate protection through applications and knowledge sharing for both financial and environmental benefits
S4S: What is your message to maritime stakeholders with regards to a more sustainable shipping?
E.M.: Seven years ago, when I had the honour and responsibility to establish Weathernews’ office in Athens, I told the first shipping stakeholders I met that we do not see you as customers, but as partners. Our philosophy, which I fully support, centres on people helping people, recognizing the vital role of human support and empathy alongside technology. Beyond selling solutions, our global teams are committed to providing personalised support, sharing knowledge, and learning from our clients. With the shared objective of safeguarding our small blue sphere for future generations, we’re here for you personally, every step of the way.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.