Thursday, 11 October 2012

Malacca and Singapore Straits oceanographic model promises significant savings for ships

Applied oceanography specialist Tidetech has developed models for the Malacca and Singapore Straits that promise to save transiting vessels thousands of dollars in bunker costs, not to speak of time savings of up to 12 per cent, depending on vessel type.

Interestingly, the news coincides with the "Co-operative Mechanism on Safety of Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore" meeting held in Singapore recently, where the International Chamber of Shipping had expressed concern about the lack of new large scale navigational charts for the Straits and welcomed initiatives from Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia to enhance safety in the region. India was an observer at the meet, and has promised to help with surveys and training, it is learnt.

Tidetech specialises in providing detailed information about tidal and ocean currents and other meteorological data. It says that it has developed a new high-resolution tidal model for the Malacca and Singapore Straits; the commercial model promises to save fuel costs and time for the 70,000 ships that transit the straits each year, and reduce emissions. The model can be integrated into existing ECDIS systems for easy use, or be adapted to specific customer requirements.

Until now, the existing tidal information for the region was limited and based on short-term, single-point observations. Tidetech’s has used bathymetry [depth] data, satellite altimetry information and local observations, which they use to calculate hydrodynamic models using highly-complex equations of motion that govern fluid dynamics.

Tidetech managing director Penny Haire- a navigator herself- said, “By arriving at the optimal time, a ship can benefit from a favourable tide or current through busy, narrow or restricted shipping channels. This means a vessel can reduce speed (or maintain slow steaming speeds) and save fuel… and also means the vessel can avoid having to increase speed to counter adverse current”.

Tidetech focuses on applying ocean current, tidal stream, sea surface temperature and wave forecast data to a ship’s route and speed. It boasts of providing high quality data that improves efficiency and assists customers in making informed decisions.

“Weather routing is an established tool for shipping… oceanographic data goes beyond this and is a significant resource that will add further percentages to bunker and time savings and to meeting environmental obligations… for all types of commercial vessels,” Ms Haire says.

The adjustment of speed to arrive at suitable times at specific locations and therefore gain the advantage of favourable tides is something that Masters have been doing for long, albeit imperfectly. Tidetech’s model promises to fine tune this calculation with precision and data previously unavailable. The resultant optimisation in fuel consumption, along with the other benefits, take on a special meaning in light of the slow steaming phenomenon that is in widespread use today; considerable savings may well result.

“We have run a simulation for vessels steaming between 14kt and 22kt and the difference between slowest and fastest times through the Straits’ amounts to a significant difference. This means time and money is saved and emissions reduced,” said Ms Haire.


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