Op-Ed: Enter performance routing: Shipping’s decarbonization game changer

Written by Heather Ervin

DeepSea CEO Roberto-Coustas

The first half of 2022 has seen the race to reduce carbon finally enter a new, urgent phase within maritime. As the IMO unveiled plans at MEPC 78 to create an Emissions Control Area (ECA) in the Mediterranean, the European Union Parliament voted in favor of extending its carbon market (ETS) to shipping and road transport. Milestones like these represent a new reality faced by ship and cargo owners alike: optimizing every voyage is now crucial—both economically, and for the sake of the planet.

As new regulations come into play over the next 12 months—the CII and the EEXI, specifically—compliance will force change as much as the new ESG table stakes, which will ensure that all opportunities for emissions reduction and decarbonization are being utilized. That said, obstacles preventing the widespread adoption of these available solutions continue to delay the progress that shipping can and must make to meet 2030-2050 environmental goals.

Historically, shipping’s decarbonization progress has been hampered by the split incentive issue, which stems from antiquated charter party agreements that prioritized quick arrival above all else. Although readily available cost and performance efficiency gains are offered by the likes of, for example, AI-based solutions, this dynamic divides responsibility for fuel costs between shipowners, operators, and charterers, resulting in the lack of a clear value proposition to invest in eco-efficiency technologies.

However, with fuel costs rising and alternative fuels still in their infancy, the need to supercharge fuel optimization to meet new push and pull demands continues to add pressure on all players. Finally, stakeholders are beginning to recognize the significant role of performance routing.

Accelerating progress with AI

Traditional weather routing is a well-known concept and has been used in shipping for years to optimize voyages by analyzing existing weather forecasts and plotting the safest way of getting from point A to B. With the rise of AI, however, shipping is seeing this age-old field revolutionized to such a degree that it should be classed as a different solution entirely, quickly rendering the original iteration obsolete. At DeepSea Technologies, we call this performance routing.

Taking traditional weather routing approaches to a new level, AI adds layers of data-driven accuracy to weather routing capabilities, opening doors to a wealth of previously impossible applications. These new applications are allowing shipping companies to truly understand vessel performance and optimize voyages for the first time, considering not only weather conditions but also an individual ship’s DNA.

Transforming the technology from merely a safety asset to a transformative decarbonization tool, performance routing unlocks increased fuel savings, further performance and efficiency gains, and enables just in time (JIT) arrivals for enhanced impact across shipping’s entire value chain.

What’s more, the technology brings the industry closer to overcoming one of its most persistent challenges—unpredictability. AI now powers systems that adapt in real-time to changing circumstances, allowing for the correct actions to be taken when unpredictable weather conditions inevitably occur. This turns the unpredictable into something that vessels and masters can intelligently manage, in real time, and offers a new, ground-breaking level of control in an era when every decision can mean the difference between success or failure.

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