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20 February 18

Maritime route optimization in project SYNCHRO-NET

SYNCHRO-NET is a very innovative logistics project. The aim of the project is to develop an innovative tool set, to find the best possible succession of carriers between the sender and the consignee and compare several multi-modal solutions including ship, train and road transportation. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are assessed for each alternative route, so the end-user is helped to choose the route that best suits his or her needs among a restricted selection. These indicators are: cost, duration and risk.

With regard to means of transport on the ground, it is easy to estimate these KPIs. Roads are fixed in space, speed is limited and any changes on these lines can be anticipated.

In contrast to road traffic, maritime traffic is not limited either in terms of space or speed. And although many areas near the coast can be found with strict regulations, there are many different routes on which a ship can sail between two sufficiently distant ports. In addition, unlike road traffic, environmental conditions such as sea state, currents and wind have a significant impact on the hydrodynamic resistance and then on fuel consumption, so that the best road either in terms of speed or costs is rarely a straight line between two ports. Last but not least, speed and fuel costs are strongly coupled. Then different ways to operate a given oceanic line can be chosen according to user’s requirements.

SYNCHRO-NET’s Maritime Module

To assess the costs and speed of a maritime route, and then choose the correct way to operate this route, the SYNCHRO-NET project brought together a consortium of actors from the maritime sector. The expertise of each partner is integrated in a software solution called Maritime Module. The basic workflow of this module is given in the following scheme.




This module is an assembly of several sub-modules working together (each one can work individually as well, and is accessible to all the partners via web-services). It includes a weather routing module, a “real-time speed pilot” module which consists mainly in a cost assessment tool, and a route management module.

The weather routing module

The main issue tackled by this module is the slow-steamingstrategy (see Slow Steaming Wikipedia article). On calm water, the drag is proportional to the square of ship’s speed, so the required power for propulsion is proportional to the cube of speed – it would require eight times as much power to go twice as fast. Moreover, in adverse weather conditions, the required power can be more than doubled. To optimize a route in terms of speed and trajectory regarding the required propulsion power (proportional to fuel consumption), CRAIN developed a weather routing algorithm that includes an advanced energy model of the considered ships, developed by Bureau Veritas using its tool SEECAT and with CFD simulations from HydrOcean. This module can operate in 4 different modes:

The algorithm takes the weather into account and returns the required power on the final route, which is used to calculate fuel costs. This module allows to evaluate the impact of slow steaming on the fuel consumption.

The Real-Time Speed Pilot

Fuel consumption is an important part of the operating costs, and adopting a slow-steaming strategy allows to decrease fuel expenses. A contrario, the fixed operating costs such as insurance, crew salaries, maintenance and amortization of capital expenditures increase with the duration of the trip. To find the best trade-off between fuel consumption Vs. fixed costs i.e. to move from slow steaming to “smart” steaming, Kongsberg Maritime is developing a “real-time speed pilot” that compares the overall cost for different berthing time, according to the different slots available at port. To this end, it calculates the cost of the trip, for the different slots the ship can reach and returns to the logistics partners of the project the cost of each alternative, so they can select the final route. As this module works in real-time, it also allows if there is a change at berthing time during the trip to “smartly” re-route the ship, either to speed up to catch the next slot, or to slow down to catch the following one.

The route management module

To integrate the Maritime Module in the SYNCHRO-NET platform, an interface with other partners is being developed by Wärtsilä SAM. The modules can still be accessed individually but the workflow between them is automatized through a server set up by Wärtsilä SAM. A fully optimized route is computed, regarding users requirements (speed Vs. cost) and via a secured Maritime Cloud (Maritime Connectivity), the final route is sent to an ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System) station installed on the ship.

Innovation at the core of the SYNCHRO-NET project

The solution proposed by maritime partners in this project is very innovative as it implies a full maritime route optimization based on a smart steaming strategy, a premiere in the maritime world. The final version of the Maritime Module is awaited for April 2018 and hopefully will represent a big advance in the shipping industry.


Source: Synchronet Staff