This week, world leaders have gathered at the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference. At the opening session, Secretary General António Guterres noted that out of all of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), goal number 14, which focuses on sustainable ocean management, has received the least support of any of the SDG initiatives.
Goal 14 of the UN’s SDGs has specific targets that focus on a wide variety of ocean issues, including reducing marine pollution, minimizing acidification, increasing investment in scientific knowledge and marine technologies, and respecting international law that calls for the safe and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources.
As one of the leading contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, the shipping industry has been striving to reduce emissions even beyond the International Maritime Organization’s mandatory regulations. Efforts such as building carbon-neutral ships, improving vessel design, and retrofitting equipment to use alternative fuels greatly contributes to reducing GHG emissions but the process takes time and investment. There are tactics that ship operators can enact today to reduce fuel usage, which in turn reduces emissions. Weather analytics, particularly when combined with oceanic data and vessel insights, contributes to reaching ocean sustainability goals.
From weather optimized routing to slow steaming and just-in-time port arrivals, weather analytics provides actionable insights that help ship operators plan the most efficient route with sustainability top of mind. For example, optimized routing is point-to-point, safety-focused route planning that includes speed and heading recommendations and accounts for the impacts of environmental forces on specific vessel types. During a voyage, a vessel’s route can be recalculated daily based on real-time, or near real-time weather data to account for changes in the environment. Weather optimized routing alone can reduce fuel usage and carbon emissions by up to 5 percent but is typically coupled with other data inputs to further reduce impact.
For example, using a just in time algorithm can reduce time in port, which reduces idling, and the related emissions, offshore. A recent study of four major seaports found that during the “pandemic period” ship emissions increased by an average of 79% across those four ports. By incorporating weather analytics into just-in-time arrival calculations, a captain can navigate using a weather optimized route, and when integrated with port authority information, he can adjust as needed, such as slow steaming, which has been shown to reduce greenhouse emissions.
Another issue addressed in Goal 14 is marine pollution. A recent report by the World Shipping Council shows that the number of shipping containers lost at sea has risen significantly during the pandemic, particularly during the winter due to weather-related events. Not only does this immediately contribute to marine pollution, but it also has an environmental impact that is not fully known. Recent studies indicate that the overboard cargo may overtime release micro pollution which could impact marine ecosystems.
Parametric rolling, a main reason for container loss, can be accounted for when modeling motions using weather analytics and wave spectra, along with the design of the ship and cargo. Knowing where and the timing of the sea state and wave spectra that can cause significant rolling is important for planning routes and avoiding potentially dangerous oceanic conditions and cargo loss.
The UN Ocean Conference attendees are looking for solutions for a sustainably managed ocean that involve green technology and innovative uses of marine resources. They are also looking to address threats to the health, ecology, economy, and governance of the ocean. More extreme weather conditions, combined with growing environmental awareness, demand the shipping industry to become more sustainable and lower the impact on the environment. In the future, weather is more, not less likely to impact on operations. Integrated, cloud-based technology and operational insights will play a large part in reducing emissions and achieving sustainability goals.