Sofar Ocean's Superior Weather Forecasts Minimize Voyage Costs

Sofar Ocean
Sofar's weather dashboard displaying its global network of marine weather sensors, known as Spotter buoys (yellow pentagons).

Published Sep 25, 2023 4:04 PM by Sofar Ocean

How efficiently a vessel sails depends on the type of ocean weather it encounters during a voyage. Waves, wind, and currents apply resistance that a ship overcomes by burning more fuel. This decreases efficiency and increases costs. Waves contribute the most added weather resistance and cause unwanted vessel motion, such as pitching and rolling.

To reduce the effects of weather on a vessel’s fuel consumption and emissions output, maritime shipping companies are increasingly turning to voyage optimization platforms. However, most platforms use traditional weather forecasts that rely on satellite observations. However, according to an analysis recently published by NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, satellite observations are less impactful than direct observations from drifting buoys.

Sofar’s marine weather forecasts are up to 40-50% more accurate because it has the largest private network of marine weather sensors in the ocean, known as Spotter buoys. Sofar assimilates more than 1.5 million observations daily from its global network, which provides spatial and temporal coverage of sea state conditions not captured by satellites.

Spotter observations of wave spectra are particularly valuable, given that waves generate the most weather resistance for ships at sea. Assimilating these observations increases Sofar’s forecast accuracy of significant wave height by 38% and of wave period and direction by up to 45%.

Sofar’s Wayfinder solution integrates its superior weather forecasts to calibrate vessel performance models and provide daily voyage optimization to minimize the total cost of every voyage. The Wayfinder platform issues an RPM recommendation daily and new waypoints when a significant route advantage is identified from amongst hundreds of millions of options. Wayfinder’s guidance unlocks significant savings opportunities over the course of a voyage, while always accounting for a vessel’s business and safety constraints.

Sofar's Wayfinder platform provides daily optimized voyage guidance using highly accurate weather forecasts powered by the largest network of ocean sensors.

To quantify the cost of weather, Sofar analyzed historical weather data and noon reports of a typical Capesize bulk carrier.

18% of a Capesize’s main engine fuel consumption is due to adverse weather. This translates to ~$920,000/year in fuel costs and ~5,730 MT CO2/year in emissions. However, favorable weather propels a vessel forward and offsets some of a Capesize’s adverse weather-related fuel consumption. This lowers main engine fuel consumption due to weather to 12.4%.

This further reinforces how highly accurate weather forecasts are a prerequisite for an effective voyage optimization solution in order to save time, fuel and lower emissions.

To try out Sofar's interactive weather dashboard visit weather.sofarocean.com. Learn more about how Wayfinder can minimize your voyage costs at sofarocean.com/wayfinder.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.