Routing Optimization

Integrating real-time data and performance analysis of individual ships with weather routing services allows Artificial Intelligence to deliver a huge leap forward for voyage optimization

By Andreas Symeonidis,
Marketing & Partner Relations Manager at METIS Cyberspace Technology
Andreas Symeonidis

The relationship between weather and risk is as old as shipping but data-driven vessel performance analysis is finding new ways to work around the elements to ensure that, as well as safety, ship speed, ETA, fuel consumption and energy efficiency are optimized on every voyage.

For some time, forecasting services have enabled the avoidance of ‘unwanted weather’, allowing captains to select the best route to reach a specific destination by the ETA. Progressively more accurate predictions reduce risks for crews, ships and cargoes, while also optimizing FO consumption and carbon intensity. All kinds of vessels of all ages are now benefiting from weather routing functionality, but large vessels operating on intercontinental trades have most to gain.

However, if the benefits sound straightforward, even the most advanced weather routing systems often base their advice on generic vessel information rather than physical realities. In fact, in addition to the weather, the characteristics of an individual ship and its performance pattern are highly influential when choosing which route is “best” and in quantifying the actual benefits.

Ship-specific AI
Without exception, the work METIS has done to optimize every aspect of vessel performance has proven that no two ships are the same – even where supposed identical sisters are concerned! Each vessel develops a unique performance profile over time, due to variations in machinery, hull fouling, hull damages, maintenance and repairs, quality and type of fuel oil, or even crew skills and reactions.

In its latest response, METIS has devised Augmented Routing Optimization – an analytics and advisory option which incorporates weather routing functionality from 3rd party services, as well taking account of the cargo requirements and individual ship characteristics which influence performance.

METIS is a cloud-based platform which offers real-time ship monitoring, performance analysis and evaluation as well as predictive insights for entire fleets. Using artificial intelligence, it continuously analyses fuel consumption, hull fouling, emissions and route costs, to reduce operating costs and match performance against the requirements of regulators, charter parties or even investors.

Weather routing, meanwhile, is a very specialized service, and one where METIS prefers to let the experts do their job while we enhance the outcome by providing the value-add of vessel-specific intelligence that optimizes the routing advice given to the client in the most convenient way.

Integrated platform

One of the key appeals of the type of analytics METIS offers is that integrated outputs are available ‘with one click’ in the platform. Nevertheless, it is worth emphasizing that what is new is the way vessel-specific weather route optimization delivers on a voyage-by-voyage basis – for FO consumption, CII rating, Power, Speed over ground, Distance & Time of travel, etc. The gains are also reportable, to fleet managers or for charter party agreement purposes alike.

Any advance which makes life easier for the captain, ensures main engine efficiency, adapts to optimize FO consumption and enhances CII rating predictions  surely makes a necessity out of weather routing capabilities which some continue to keep in the ‘nice to have’ category. The service also enables ship-specific comparisons between the chosen weather optimized route with others – such as the most common sailable route or user-defined routes (as selected by the captain for example). Moreover, in the months ahead, we will extend functionality to include speed optimization on the selected route, providing a further boost in output usefulness.

In addition, operations managers onshore can take route adjustments into account, including calculating and recalculating optimum routes to inform and optimize freight schedules; fleet managers can also better evaluate voyage and post-voyage performance.

When METIS evaluates its own solutions, it looks first to user feedback. In this case, we note several reports from the IMO and the IAMU indicating that weather routing saves more than 3% in fuel consumption, and that for large vessels this number is expected to be substantially higher.

However, the use of Augmented Routing Optimization is allowing METIS to establish the benefits available for specific vessels, rather than settle for generalized claims. In one pilot running over a six-month period, for example, a METIS customer has achieved a 923mt cut in FO consumption and 19.5% lower CII, even though the distance traveled by the ship increased by 25%.