Shipping represents roughly 90% of global trade, making it a highly complex industry with tight schedules and little room for error. We’ve seen major spikes in demand in recent years that will only increase — the global freight trade could grow between 330-380% by 2050.
Yet, extreme weather is making maritime operations and the global supply chain more vulnerable than ever. The March 2021 six-day blockage of the Suez Canal, in which 30% of daily container freight passes through, cost the global economy an estimated $400 million per hour.
Causing 200+ ships to halt, the Suez Canal catastrophe was due to an unexpected weather event, wind gusts. Winds picked up between 7 – 11 AM towards the Southern port, grounding the Ever Given, a 20,000 TEU container ship, on the banks of the canal. The costly and unfortunate event could have been avoided with Weather Intelligence and predictive marine weather insights.
Here at Tomorrow.io, we’re laser-focused on helping individuals, businesses, and countries to better predict, prepare for, and adapt to the impact of weather – which is why we’re happy to announce further improvements in maritime operations with the development of premium maritime features, to ensure events like the Suez Canal are avoided.
How Weather Impacts Maritime Operations
There’s already an enormous amount of logistics that go into moving ships from Point A to Point B safely. But that’s only part of the story for any supply chain — whether a ship carries food, medicine, consumer goods, or passengers, port authorities have to plan around weather to keep employees, equipment, and cargo safe.
Not only do weather events impact day-to-day operations — adjusting employee shift times, closing ports, or delaying shipments — it also impacts the bottom line. According to the Office for Coast Management, 2021 saw 20 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters. The total cost for these events was $145 billion, marking 2021 the third most costly year on record.
But it’s not just bad weather that you’re contending with for maritime and port operations. It’s the everyday weather occurrences that slow things down, add downtime, or make it risky for partners, employees, and customers alike.
- High Winds. Wind speed and wind direction impact safety and downtime, since crane operations need to be suspended with winds above 30mph. Plus, high winds can put sensitive and expensive equipment at risk.
- High Waves. Wave height can make ship-to-shore transfers tricky, and cause problems for your pilots and tug operations.
- Precipitation. Whether it’s snow or rain, the type and quantity impacts visibility and safety, creating potentially hazardous conditions.
- Visibility. Fog in certain parts of the world make it challenging to operate cranes, trucks, and other vehicles, and add risk for your crew.
- Temperature. Extreme temperatures — or changes in temperature — can spoil or damage cargo, especially during heat.
The Added Value of Premium Maritime Features:
Now that we’ve identified a few ways that weather impacts port and maritime operations, how can you use predictive weather intelligence with our new data layers: tides, sea currents and sea surface temperatures? In addition to powering maritime navigation and planning, port activities, logistics planning, cargo management, these can also better equip offshore industrial activities, offshore wind construction, environmental impact assessments, recreational activities (boating, fishing, surfing) and more.
Tides are extremely important for predicting where and when coastal flooding may occur. Rising sea levels are causing King Tides to be increasingly impactful and damaging to built exposures along the coasts, including global ports.
By leveraging predictive weather intelligence, port operators can proactively plan to suspend operations with predictive insights for high tides, combined with heavy precipitation. Further, vessel schedules can be better coordinated for arrivals and departures during safe weather conditions to avoid costly damages.
Sea currents are the continuous, predictable, directional movement of seawater driven by gravity, wind and water density and play an important role in maritime shipping, logistics planning and coastal management.
Insight into Sea Currents is essential to reducing costs of shipping. A ship steaming against a current will need to use more fuel to maintain a required speed. A ship steaming with a current will save fuel and can proceed at an increased speed.
Further, real-time insights into sea currents for navigational officers are also essential in ensuring the stability of the ship as it proceeds through the water including providing necessary allowance when approaching a rig, a mooring buoy or when passing other vessels.
Sea Surface Temperatures
Sea Surface Temperature (SST) is the water temperature close to the ocean’s surface to ~20 meters below the ocean surface and plays a critical role in a wide spectrum of operational uses including maritime applications, both commercially and recreationally, in addition to military defense operations, tourism, commercial fisheries management and the study of marine ecosystems.
Sufficiently warm SSTs, with an ocean temperature of at least 26.5°C (79.7°F) spanning through at minimum a 50-meter depth are one of the minimal environmental conditions needed to sustain the development and maintenance of a tropical cyclone. As such, access to SST data is especially useful for identifying the onset of El Niño and La Niña cycles.
SSTs are also one of the primary drivers to large and small scale circulation patterns ,as well as local sea breeze effects. SSTs are also paramount to the health of specific marine ecosystems including coral reefs which are essential to healthy coasts and vibrant economies. Annually, U.S. coral reefs provide flood protection benefits of $1.8 billion in averted damages to property and economic activity.
The use cases and insights mentioned above are just scratching the surface of what’s possible by leveraging maritime data. The more information you have to prepare, the easier it will be to keep maritime and port operations, off-shore industrial activities, and more running smoothly.
Tomorrow.io contextualizes weather data and forecasts that context, making it possible for you to understand weather patterns and predict not only the weather, but also the impact to your business every single day. Granular insights provide you with an action plan to maximize output and make quick decisions to proactively optimize your maritime operations.