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A Captain's Story on Short Sea Shipping and the Coastal Trade

StormGeo received the following letter from Captain Tjeerd Schippers involved in the northern European trading arena. 

Known by several names, the terms Short Sea Shipping and the Coastal Trade can describe shipping where there are land-based alternate solutions, but also can include other ships such as feeder container ships on intra-Asia trades, or semi-coastal routes with no viable land-based alternatives.

“You have asked me for examples of my practical experience as master on a short sea container feeder using StormGeo's BonVoyage System (BVS™) weather and routing software. I'm more than happy to share my experience with you. To clarify the situation where I'm using the software, I will explain my sailing area and some practical examples of how I use BVS.

My sailing areas are: North Sea, English Channel, Irish Sea, Bay of Biscay up to the west coast of Portugal. These areas are under great influence of low-pressure weather systems mainly during fall and winter seasons. Our charterer supplies the BonVoyage System software to us. The system we are subscribed to is Ultra Planner. This allows us to combine weather data with our voyage preparation. In more detail, we receive weather data updates every 6 hours and this includes all wind, wind waves and swell information, as well as taking in account Traffic Separation Schemes and ocean and tidal currents. The result of combining all this information is a route advice with full details for every leg between waypoints as to what can be expected with wind, wind waves, swell, currents, speed etc. Furthermore, the software offers the option to enter vessels data, such as GM, draft, etc. after which you can see clear details on rolling periods and parametric rolling per leg of the voyage if applicable.

As you can see, the options in this software are very extensive and all very intuitive to use. Combined with the option of having direct and hands on support/advice by email, a solid sailing plan can be created before beginning the voyage.

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Figure 1: The Bay of Biscay in winter


Figure 2: The South China Sea in autumn

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Figure 3: Currents affecting the South American Trade

In the winter of 2013 and 2014, I had several occasions where the information supplied to me by StormGeo's Bon Voyage was of crucial importance on my decision whether to sail or not. I recall an occasion where we were supposed to sail from Antwerp, Belgium to Santander, Spain and the weather predictions were bad. High westerly swell and wind waves, making the area of Ushant, English Channel to Biscay, a very nasty area to be at the wrong time. I decided to sail from Antwerp to Margate and drop anchor there for 24 hours, after which the biggest seas were subsiding and according to a thorough planning/routing we have made as written above, we could sail and follow in the wake of the continuously calming weather in the Bay of Biscay to Santander.

A more recent event occurred just recently as we were to sail from Dublin to Santander. A compact but deep low-pressure system for this time of year was setting from the Atlantic straight into the Bay of Biscay. From Dublin up to Lands End there was no real threat for us, but more so in the Biscay. Again, based on the weather info supplied and after consult with StormGeo weather routing specialists, I decided to sail from Dublin, but drop anchor at Dublin Bay Anchorage for just 8 hours. After heaving up anchor we again sailed to Santander behind the bad weather and did not have any problems at all during this voyage. Nice detail to mention is that I spoke to a fellow captain just sailing out of Santander when we approached, and he mentioned that he had to divert his course, ending up sailing around the weather for a 100 nautical miles (100nm/10kn average=10hrs extra sailing time against 1,4mt fuel an hour at the current fuel price....) and still he experienced 10 meter waves.

As you can see, I am 100% convinced that due to the accurate and extensive weather and routing information and support of StormGeo, I have been able to make the right decisions to prevent damage to my vessel and cargo, and save fuel for our charterer at the same time.”

With best regards,
Captain Tjeerd Schippers

StormGeo thanks sea going and shore-based personnel for your unique stories. StormGeo welcomes stories from all sea going staff — not just Captain's but also 1st Officers, 2nd Officers, Skippers of fishing vessels etc. To submit your story, click here or email us at info@stormgeo.com

This testimonial is from a ship captain utilizing BVS provided by the charterer. Not all voyage costs however are borne by the charterer. Ship owners benefit from the additional safety afforded by the BVS software. Additionally, software that can help reduce ship consumption can help the owners command higher rates than those without such software. As well, reduced consumption of lube and cylinder oils are possible as ships can reduce the time spent laboring in heavy weather.

You can find more information about BVS here.

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