Mitigating stochastic uncertainty from weather routing for ships with wind propulsion

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Reducing the shipping sector's contribution to climate change requires urgent emission reductions this decade. Both weather routing and wind propulsion offer immediate solutions, where combining sails with efficient routing amplifies the performance of each technology. However, while large emission savings are theoretically available, the impact of stochastic uncertainty from wind forecasts is unknown. Here, we present a novel approach that exploits fuel consumption calculations from over a thousand departures across three routes to characterise stochastic uncertainty. We show that routes with ideal wind conditions and long voyage times are most sensitive to uncertain forecast inputs, reducing savings from Flettner rotors and weather routing by up to 44% when a priori weather routing strategies are used. This paper further shows how an adaptive weather routing strategy can be used as an accurate prediction tool to reduce uncertainty on all routes investigated, reliably amplifying carbon savings from Flettner rotors by between 1.16 and 2.48 times typical great circle route savings. Overall, this paper provides greater assurance around the previously estimated carbon savings that serves to strengthen confidence in a wind-assisted decarbonisation strategy and its potential to provide essential emission reductions this decade.
Original languageEnglish
Article number114674
JournalOcean Engineering
Early online date8 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


  • Weather routing
  • Wind propulsion
  • Flettner rotors
  • Optimisation
  • Climate change
  • Carbon savings


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