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Riding the Great West Wind Drift

While the northern hemisphere moves into meteorological spring the South Atlantic switches from summer into autumn. February (late summer) in the South Atlantic is typically known for favourable voyage conditions. The pronounced gale track is usually further south of the main shipping lanes than during the austral winter. This provides advantageous opportunities for ship owners and charterers alike to optimise routes.

Here is a recent example of an east-bound vessel sailing towards the Sunda Strait. The master’s intentions are highlighted by the pink route in Image 1, using the TSS lanes off South Africa. 

Image 1,  Ship proposed route in Pink, and FW recommended route in Green.

This route exposed the vessel to the strong adverse Agulhas Current as indicated in Image 2. An alternative green route minimised exposure to the adverse Agulhas Current and exploited periods of strong advantageous current from the West Wind Drift. This current flows east and the axis is located well south of the South African capes.

Image 2.   Recommended green route exploits the East-Flowing West Wind Drift Currents compared to original pink route caught in strong adverse Agulhas Current.

Fleetweather recommended the green route, additionally keeping the vessel near the centre of a high pressure ridge. This provided more favourable weather conditions, and avoided strong headwinds and higher significant wave heights expected along the South African coast (see Image 3).

Image 3. Vessel using recommended route to transit along the high pressure ridging and avoid stronger winds and higher SWH off the Eastern Capes of South Africa 01-02 March 

The result of this optimisation is the recommended green route saved 286 nm (distance through the water) and 21.1 hrs of steaming compared with the pink route, delivering significant fuel and emission savings. Of interest, the recommended route also offered an option for the vessel to steam at super eco speed for the remainder of voyage if the new ETA slot was not available.

As we move back into the austral autumn and winter such routing opportunities become more and more scarce.  Our weather routing services strive to find these windows of opportunities all year round to maximise savings for our clients, maintaining safety and communicating with all interested parties – whether a shipowner or charterer.

Stay connected and safe.

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