Forecasts and route planning tools from Sweden’s GAC-SMHI Weather Solutions are playing a key role in the European Union’s Sea Traffic Management (STM) Validation Project.
The project developed by a European Consortium led by the Swedish Maritime Administration, aims to make merchant shipping safer, smoother and more efficient by tackling the fact that international shipping remains relatively unregulated. The route chosen by a ship is often unknown to other vessels – something which can increase the chances of collisions, near misses, congestion and delays. The STM projects aims to tackle that issue by exploring ways in which routing information and planning can be shared to minimise the risks. It is hoped that STM will become the European standard, and eventually be adopted worldwide.
The weather routing services offered by GAC-SMHI Weather Solutions, the GAC Group’s strategic alliance with the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrographical Institute (SMHI), enable vessels to share key information. SMHI’s marine meteorologists guide vessels all over the world day and night, analysing the most suitable route based on vessel characteristics, load, winds, waves and currents. The aim is to support both the captain on board and the person on dry land instructing the vessel, in order to ensure safe and energy-efficient transport.
Over the coming year, about 30 vessels from SMHI’s existing customer base will test the STM system. The vessels will receive SMHI's route recommendations in digital format directly on the electronic navigational chart.
“At SMHI, we have extensive experience of working with both shipping forecasts and the analyses of completed shipping routes,” said Lennart Cederberg, Segment Manager for shipping at SMHI. “The STM project is based on standardising the exchange of information between vessels and land to achieve a transparent system to helps vessels, companies, ports, terminals, authorities and other stakeholders to know where ships are, and what their planned routes are. Data from SMHI’s system provides information that enables Masters to calculate how much to accelerate to arrive safely and on time, while being more economically and environmentally efficient.”
Cederberg cites Rotterdam, Europe’s biggest port, as an example: “It has 140 terminals, and 30,000 vessels call at the port every year. With the help of STM, it is possible to coordinate movements so vessels can arrive at the right terminal at exactly the right time and know exactly when they can unload, instead of waiting anchored far outside the harbour and waiting for a space to become available.”
SMHI’s ensemble forecasts provide up to 50 estimates on the impact of weather on speed and fuel consumption. Such safer forecasts give greater opportunities to optimise the vessels' routes at the beginning of a long journey. Its custom-built software Fleetweb combines modern visualisation technology, service design and an advanced yet intuitive monitoring interface. By connecting multiple systems, it gives a total overview of the fleet while ensuring optimum vessel use.
By Jake Frith