Ship Routeing : A General Overview

Ship routeing or managing the shipping traffic can be easily called the most important aspect of entire maritime industry. Managing shipping traffic, especially in regions of high traffic load or congested areas, ship routeing comes as even more important task.

Explorers set shipping routes a long time ago, most of which are still in use today. Managing those routes along with the new ones has become a herculean task. But the new technologies for the same come as a boon.

Ship routeing can be done in several ways. It has several motives behind it, the core principle of which remains to ensure all ships reach their destination safely. Ship routeing is done not only for managing marine traffic but predicting weather conditions too. Satellite imagining and better wireless communication systems prove highly advantageous for this purpose.

Several ways of ship routeing include:

Standard optimum ship routeing service

This marine ship routeing deals with recommending a vessel with most safe shipping route prior to sailing along with monitoring its progression throughout the journey. The settings for shipping route, ship speed and other conditions are done taking into account the weather conditions, route safety and a minor proposition for unprecedented events. This is, however, a personalized service and is not a standardized measure for ship routeing.

Bon Voyage System

This weather data system is also one of the most commonly used ways for regulating and monitoring ship routes. This efficient system stores and graphically presents weather forecast to up to 16 days and makes it available directly onboard. Key factors like surface pressure, winds, significant wave heights, swell, tropical storm information, current conditions, ice information etc can directly assessed and delivered onboard through BVS. Taking into consideration, the best route for a vessel can be judged and identified. This can be further cross checked with authorities to know about the traffic from that route.

Satellite imaging

Satellite imaging comes as one of the most efficient tools for ship routeing. Any shipping route can be checked upon at any given time using the satellite images from that region. The latest development in this field includes use of Synthetic Aperture Radar for satellite imaging. This technology allows taking high resolution images of different cloud and light conditions. It can prove exceptionally useful in ice covered regions of the world, making marine navigation in ice covered parts of the world much easier and safer.

All these ship routeing systems can only provide information about the best route to take for a particular voyage. However, to know about which route is most suitably available, a standardized authority needs to regulate ship traffic all over the world. To make matters simpler, currently, all the shipping traffic is controlled according to the guidelines set by a single international organization. The International Maritime Organization looks into maintaining all the shipping routes to keep the traffic smooth and avoid accidents. All the governments adhering to guidelines of this organization follow a standardized protocol. The key points of ship routeing as mentioned by IMO are:

  1. Ship routeing is done with prime motive of traffic management. Taking into account activity over a particular shipping route, appropriate traffic lanes need to be set to avoid accidents.
  2. All the key elements for ship routeing are well defined. These elements include traffic lanes, separation zones and roundabouts.
  3. Traffic lanes are provided only for purpose of one way traffic. Such shipping routes are found mainly in congested regions so as to avoid ships being stuck in a spot.
  4. Separating zones are given special importance as they help in maintaining different traffic lanes simultaneously. They also help in keeping a tab on ships moving in opposite directions.
  5. IMO defines recommended routes for vessels in a particular region or on a particular voyage. These routes are the generally routes with undefined width and are safest for travel.
  6. Deep water routes are monitored and defined especially for underwater marine traffic. Such routes are surveyed for clearance of sea bottom and are devoid of any submerged articles that could hinder the vessel’s journey.
  7. Precautionary areas are especially defined by IMO as areas where extra caution is advised. Locating and monitoring such areas becomes one of the many key functions performed by various nations under IMO’s guidelines. Traffic volume and flow direction is carefully regulated at all times on such maritime shipping routes.
  8. IMO also defines ‘Areas to be avoided’ as the shipping routes which are almost prohibited for ship navigation because of extreme danger they pose. Such routes could be considered dangerous for a certain class or all types of vessels.

All these maritime shipping routes are further demarcated and managed by participating governments. IMO and its guidelines were established as a means of regulating ship traffic better. It was proposed in 1963 when idea of a centralized body for maintaining marine traffic was put forth. Ever since, all the participating nations have performed the responsibility of ensuing ships sailing under their flags follow these guidelines.