We often read about storms brewing in shipping, usually referring to the turbulent financial and commercial climate against which world trade is carried out. But despite those metaphorical challenges, it’s the literal one – the weather itself – that is the most unpredictable, uncontrollable factor with the potential to disrupt operations.
Historically, shipping has always been intrinsically linked to the weather. Extreme conditions can delay arrivals, halt departures, limit loading, compromise fuel efficiency and even expose vessels, crews and cargoes to peril. That’s why a sound understanding of the weather and reliable meteorological advice is as important today as it was in the earliest days of seaborne trade. And in these days of global shipping, specialised meteorological services must also be global in scope and vision.
The GAC Group and the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) work together as GAC-SMHI Weather Solutions to meet that need. The specialist service communicates with vessels around the world, around the clock, to provide the latest meteorological information, enabling captains to make informed routing choices that are both safe and energy efficient. SMHI’s marine meteorologists use a complex formula that takes into consideration individual vessel characteristics, loads, and the wind, waves and currents en route to guide both bridge teams and onshore management how to operate their vessel through a range of weather conditions.
The safety of vessels, crew and cargo will always be paramount. In these days of tight margins, however, good weather forecasting can make the difference between profit and loss for companies plying the world’s shipping routes. It also gives operators the opportunity to consider the best options to meet deadlines, control costs, optimise fuel efficiency, and accurately plan arrivals and departures. It’s more than a consultative service, it’s predictive.
“Big Data” Application
In an industry waking up to the benefits of big data and information sharing, weather routing is already ahead of the game. In many ways, meteorology was the very first ‘big data’ application, though experts would contend that the term only works when data can be easily interpreted and shared. Visualisation – presenting data in an accessible, easily understood way, and combining forecasts to more accurately predict the weather – is at the core of GAC-SMHI’s Weather Solutions offering.
This is highlighted by the key role GAC-SMHI Weather Solutions’ will play in the European Union’s upcoming Sea Traffic Management Validation Project. The initiative aims to explore ways in which routing information can be shared between vessels to reduce the chances of collisions, near misses, congestion and delays.
As using data in this way transcends the traditional weather routing offering that GAC-SMHI Weather Solutions provides, its 30 customers that will participate in the pilot programme will be at the cutting edge of big data application for shipping.
By Lennart Cederberg, Head of GAC-SMHI Weather Solutions
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.
Lennart Cederberg is the Head of GAC-SMHI Weather Solutions. GAC is a global provider of integrated shipping, logistics and marine services. Emphasising world-class performance, a long-term approach, innovation, ethics and a strong human touch, GAC delivers a flexible and value-adding portfolio to help customers achieve their strategic goals. Established since 1956, the privately-owned group employs over 9,000 people in more than 300 offices worldwide.