Project activities



Building on the Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Service (CMEMS) and recent new capacities in satellite observations as demonstrated in the ESA funded GlobCurrent project, the overall goal of the TOPVOYS (Tools for Optimizing Performance of VOYages at Sea) project proposal submitted to ERA-NET Cofund under the MarTERA call is to advance and implement analyses tools and decision support system for voyage optimization. This is highly important for the maritime waterborne transport sector including safety and security and will strengthen transnational research and development in maritime and marine technologies in support to Blue Economy and Blue Growth. Optimum ship routing means the “best route” for a ship based on the marine weather forecasts including wind, wave and surface current conditions, together with ship characteristics, cargo requirements and navigational performance including use of Autmatic Information System (AIS). The advanced analyses tools and decision support system will regularly be tested and demonstrated in delayed mode post voyage analyses and real time operations with lead involvement of the lead marine service company together with the two participating shipping companies. In order to identify the most reliable forecast product in each area during a given time window, and to assign to each prediction a confidence index, the forecast and near real time observations will be integrated into a single decision support system. The goal is not to avoid all adverse weather, waves and current conditions but to find the best reliable balance to minimize time of transit, mimit fuel consumption and reduce emissions without placing the vessel at risk to damage or crew injury.

General objectives of the project

The overarching goal of the TOPVOYS project is to find the best balance to optimize time of transit at lower fuel consumption and reduced CO2, NOx and SOx emissions without placing the vessel at risk to damage or crew injury. Usually routing information are very diverse and built around expected time of departure (ETD), requested time of arrival (RTA), hydrography and navigable areas, administrative international and national rules (traffic separation schemes (TSS), mandatory type of fuel in emission controlled areas (ECA), areas to be avoided (piracy, war) and last but not least marine conditions en route including forecast of wind, waves, swell, surface currents and sea ice. Candidate ship routes will include North Atlantic Ocean crossings, voyages from Europe through the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Channel to the far east (e.g China, South Korea) and voyages around Southern Africa including porting in Cape Town. Today ship route planners take into account weather patterns, and marine forecasts of wind, waves and surface currents together with numerous other operational and environmental factors. All this data and information are ingested and merged to provide captains and fleet managers with speed-setting guidance along an optimum route in order to safely and efficiently achieve a desired estimated time of arrival (ETA). However, there is often lack of quality and thus confidence in the forecast, whereby route-planning decisions may ignore such information. TOPVOYS will add new information and tools to strengthen the provision of ocean surface waves and current analyses and forecasts by integrating new near real time satellite-based measurements of ocean surface currents, ocean waves, sea surface temperature and wave-current refraction, together with surface drifter observations, multiple operational ocean model fields as well as navigation and performance information from the ships.

Scientific and/or technological aims of the project

The research and development of new satellite-based retrieval algorithms from the European operational satellites Sentinels 1-2-3 will lead to derivation of surface current, ocean waves and wave-current interaction in regions along the ship routes. In addition the near-real time surface current encountered by the ship will be estimated by the analyses and forecaster team. The TOPVOYS team will then provide analysis of the most reliable forecast for potential route planning and change to take benefit of following currents and non-crossing waves, using all available satellite, in-situ and ship-based observations. The result of this NRT assessment of the ship performance and forecast optimization is then sent to the line fleet center and onboard ship routing software for eventual routing adjustment. The main goal is to strengthen the ability to confidently navigate through variable surface current regimes, oceanic eddies and areas of swell- and wave-current refraction in favorable along current and non-crossing seas. In this framework, and considering the scheduled time window allocated for the passage, waves and swell are the main elements as far as ship’s safety is concerned while current and wind are the key elements as far as fuel optimization is concerned. Forecasting current and wave-current interactions with the sufficient accuracy for an effective routing is not easy. Although an alternative route accounting for waves and current may potentially be longer it will be safer and may also lead to net reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emission. A post voyage analysis of MarTERA TOPVOYS - ID: 216 3 of 33 the value added from these satellite- and in-situ based observations will be performed to evaluate the quality of the voyage optimization and eventual need for additional operational service as shown in Figure 1. This post voyage analyses and assessment will also form the baseline for the decision to integrate the new advanced analyses tools in a decision support system.