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Hong Kong                                                                                              

Weather forecasting and ship routeing

A PRESENTATION was given by two members of Oceanroutes Hong.Kong Ltd (a part of the Swire Group), Mr Matthew Ridgwell and Ms Petty Leung. It was made all the more interesting and enjoyable by the opportunity for some hands-on testing on a model of the Orion system which they had brought along.

Equipment required on board to operate Orion is an IBM compatible personal computer with a 386 microprocessor or better. The information comes via satellite and so the ship must be Inmarsat A fitted. Two colour monitors are required, one being used for text and the other for graphics. However, in 1994. it is planned to make use of Microsoft Windows so that only one screen need be used to display both. A keyboard and.mouse are also needed, as is a printer for producing weather* charts. The printer should be at least a 24-dot matrix type, or better still a laserjet The majority of ships using this system at, present are fast container vessels on the North Pacific and North Atlantic routes.

Members were immediately impressed with the user-friendly software, the personalised nature of the service and the fact that the system quickly provides the shipmaster with easy-to-understand information that enables him to compare various options. The master can either follow the route recommended by Orion or he can apply his own skill and judgement based on the information presented and set his own course. Either way, Oceanroutes will track the vessel and supply weather information based on the chosen route.

A predeparture screen allows the master to input information specific to his vessel and voyage. Routes can be input either manually using a keyboard or by using a mouse. He simply clicks on to the latitude and longitude of his present and final position, inputs great circle or rhumb line (or a combination of both) and the system will graphically display in colour the recommended route taking into account weather and ocean currents. Without the need for the master to supply additional information, Orion will display calculated wind and wave data applicable to various dead reckoned positions as the user sequentially 'loops' through the next ten-day forecast conditions. The master may input alternative routes and the system will calculate the effect of expected weather on his particular vessel and provide details regarding the choice of route in terms of time and fuel costs.

During the voyage, the master can download daily using a high speed modem via the Inmarsat satellite to receive present weather and ship performance information. After downloading he can use the voyage option to receive a personalised message giving an explanation of route selection and forecast. He can also compare his chosen route with his present route, most optimal and least distance route.

One particular option allows four different displays on a single monitoring screen which shows the vessel's chosen route superimposed on a weather pressure chart, plus wind direction and speed and wind and wave effect on the vessel. Tropical storms receive particular attention and can be viewed on a separate screen equipped with a zoom feature for additional clarity. In addition, when in close proximity to a storm, the master receives a message every six hours advising on course, intensity and direction of the storm.

Contributed by Captain M. Pickthorne, MNI
Seaways January 1994
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