Plotting a course from space
Commercial shipping keeps our factories busy and keeps products in our shops. Europe’s trade with the rest of the world relies on safe, economical shipping, with 90% of trade going through seaports. But the system is not perfect, as CO2 emissions from the shipping industry account for around 3% of the global tally.
SEMAFORS, the Ship Efficiency Monitoring, weAther Forecasting and Optimised Routing Service is a user-focused project in support of the shipping industry, which could help reduce the fuel used at sea. The project will conduct sea trials of nine-twelve months’ duration before further evaluation.
The idea behind SEMAFORS is to improve shipping efficiency by using the most modern equipment and methods for planning ships’ routes according to weather and currents. It combines terrestrial data and space-based data to hone its routing algorithms. The leading partner on the project is BMT ARGOSS of the Netherlands.
By combining measurements on the performance of ships with weather forecasts and information on tides and oceans collected from space and at the water's surface, SEMAFORS will attempt to optimise the voyage to reduce fuel costs, improve safety and reduce emissions.
SEMAFORS has set itself a number of business oriented goals which shall be verified during the demonstration phase:
- Achieve up to a 1% fuel use reduction by making better use of global sea currents;
- Get a 2% reduction in fuel consumption by applying improved weather routing capabilities;
- Get a fuel cost saving of 2% by simply better planning that computes the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) of the vessel at its destination port based on its current progress, planned route, and expected weather along that route, which can be used to fine-tune its RTA (Required Time of Arrival) of the route and arrival time at the destination port;
- Provide a routing service based on vessel performance characteristics for specific weather and loading conditions targeting efficiency and safety;
- Provide a service that delivers key performance indicators and efficiency reports tuned to the needs of Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans (SEEMP) that users can tailor to their specific needs to quantify the net effect of measures taken.
A system like SEMAFORS has obvious benefits through all elements of the shipping industry: reducing fuel use – and consequently emissions, planning arrival times better to make port use more efficient, and improving the safety of operations at sea. The system has a range of components:
The Ship Efficiency Monitoring Service makes it possible to analyse the actual performance and effect of measures taken to improve efficiency. SEMAFORS provides the capability to gather vessel data such as log speed, heading, GPS track, fuel consumption, shaft power and RPM for analysis to show vessel performance, in particular energy efficiency performance en-route correlated to weather and sea conditions.
This information can be used for benchmarking purposes, to allow comparisons of voyages and perform trend analysis. The features of monitoring are based on the previous work performed by BMT ARGOSS in a feasibility study, and will be improved in the project, including the introduction of standard reporting.
Weather Forecasting Service provides weather forecasts along the planned route. This information will be used by vessel captains or fleet management to make decisions on changing routes to avoid adverse weather conditions that could affect safety and comfort and impose sailing speed restrictions.
Routing Service will provide accurate routing advice optimised against a wide range of criteria including required arrival time and fuel saving constraints but always taking into account safety of operation.
In this project the University of Reading will investigate new data and methods to use global ocean currents to benefit routing and other services.
The Service Architecture of SEMAFORS consists of an on-board part and onshore part. The on-board part of the service is responsible for gathering sensor values together with GPS data as part of the Monitoring Service, as well as offering a user interface for the Weather Forecast and Routing Services.
Space applications have a particular benefit to the SEMAFORS system:
- GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security)/Copernicus Marine, Meteorological and ESA satellite data will be used to create weather forecasts
- Satellite communication will be used for the exchange of data between vessel and shore
- GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) information will be used to track the sailed route of vessels and to collocate MetOcean information with vessel performance data
In parallel to the trials, the business plan will be further developed and additional user needs and requirements will be identified on the basis of feedback from trials.
ESA project manager for SEMAFORS:
2200 AG Noordwijk
The ESA programme ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) has a range of elements including projects based on satellite communications and integrated applications to create products with specific end-users benefitting from space applications on Earth.