Route planning for different ship types and speeds

June 28, 2016

At the beginning of this year StormGeo implemented a vision to more closely align our organization with our customers, focusing on market specialization based on vessel types.

Optimizing our operations has strong benefits, both for our clients and our company. We’ve aligned StormGeo to understand our clients’ businesses at every level to deliver powerful and responsive solutions that enhance their business performance.

Voyage planning, is the detailed procedure of laying out a vessel’s voyage from start to finish. The steps and protocols for voyage planning are explained in the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Resolution A.893(21), “Guidelines for Voyage Planning”. The IMO explains that there are four stages of planning a voyage. They are: appraising all information; planning the intended voyage; executing the plan taking into account any special circumstances which may arise, such as changes in weather; and monitoring the vessel’s progress against the plan continuously.

Finally, the IMO regulations discuss Weather Routing Services: “Improvement in weather routing services and safety can be achieved only by an increased dialogue between ships’ masters and their weather routing service providers and through a continuous review of the information that is provided by them.” StormGeo’s expertise in this area integrates vessel specifications, such as vessel type, age, stability, cargo, and speed, as well as environmental factors such as weather and ocean currents. When combined with our experienced team of weather routing experts with vessel type expertise, it helps you to identify the optimal route.

In this article, we look at the trade route from Panama and the Caribbean Sea towards northern Europe, taking into consideration route options on optimizations that are specific to vessel types.

This trade route is sailed by many ship types including tankers, bulkers and reefers / Ro-Ro’s. Shown below are three of the many options available.

map route2

1) Great circle via south of the U.K. via the English Channel 5260 NM
2) Great circle passing north of the U.K. via Pentland Firth 5055 NM
3) Hybrid route 5335 NM

Clearly shown is a 205 NM savings to the north; however, it has the potential for exposure to bad weather in the northern waters, especially in winter.

A reasonable route might be to follow the northerly route into the mid-latitudes. At that point, if the conditions are looking uninviting to the north a course adjustment towards the English Channel might be considered using the logic mentioned in the SOLAS V Execution section regarding changes in the weather. It can be seen that this route adds only 75 NM to the Channel route, but does afford the possibility of true savings to the north should the conditions allow.

Of course, one might want to consider the speed of the ship. The distance from the point of deviation to northern Scotland is 1510 NM. The 17 knot reefer/Ro-Ro would take 3.7 days to make that leg of the voyage, while the 14 knot tanker might take 4.5 days, and the 12 knot bulker 5.25 days.

Clearly, the faster ship, reefer/ Ro-Ro needs a much smaller window of opportunity to make this run than the slower bulker would need. The two images below, which are just two days apart, show that the northern route would provide a clear savings under the correct circumstances but the results would be very unfavorable during periods of heavy weather.


Image 1 depicts heavy weather; the vessel would need to change routes to avoid heavy waves


Image 2 shows weather two days later when the weather has shifted allowing for the vessel to again take the the shorter route

If starting along the route towards the Channel from the outset, the savings afforded by the northern route would never be realized. Of course, for some ships the northerly route would not be considered an option whatsoever, after taking the nature of the ship and/or cargo into account. For example, the faster reefer/Ro-Ro makes it through the narrow window of opportunity while the time constraint might cause StormGeo to recommend the slower bulker to avoid the northern route all together.

There are certainly other weather patterns and considerations to be thought-through over and above what is depicted here.

These calculations are available to the ship’s master utilizing the StomGeo's industry leading BVS software designed by StormGeo. StormGeo provides this sort of customized calculation in shore-side weather routing services as well such that the recommended route is customized for the ship type, cargo and speed. As the earlier example showed, through proper route planning in accordance to ship type, cargo and final destination, days can be saved with the optimal route as well as many metric tons of fuel.

Read more on StormGeo’s Specialization by ship type here.

Customer Recommendation

Watch why Odfjell Tankers recommends StormGeo services. 

Did you find this article interesting? Contact us for more information about how we can help you.