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Decision-Support System for Ship Operation in Rough Weather

The aim of the project is to develop a decision-support system that will help shipmasters to deal with their ships’ performance in waves, improving the operational factors connected to operability and availability.

Tags: Water


The shipmaster’s ability to optimise a ship’s performance at sea is connected with his capability to select the best operational conduct, taking into account the following:

  • the weather routing: the ability to choose a route that is an optimal choice along the length of the route and the roughness of the seas
  • ship handling: the ability of the shipmaster to optimally conduct the ship in heavy sea states, maintaining the required ship speed, and thus keeping the foreseen delivery schedule, while reducing the likelihood of incurring structural damage
  • cargo loading conditions: the precise knowledge, available in real time to the master, of the amount of cargo stored in each hold, the wave-induced dynamic loads induced on the ship structures and on the cargo supporting equipment
  • hull strength: the ability of the shipmaster to assess the actual hull strength, taking into account the condition of corrosion and fatigue of the main hull elements in order to judge the ship’s vulnerability to high loads induced by heavy weather.

    Some recent research projects have addressed the present topic based on using the state-of-the-art wave estimating technology, resulting in the wave spectra from the analysis of the image of navigation X-band radars, but this is an expensive solution.


The objective of the project is to develop an onboard decision-support system for tactical decisions of ship handling in waves, which enables the master to improve the ship performance while minimizing the likelihood of structural damage. Besides monitoring the actual ship responses in real time, the system will predict the near-term motions and structural loads due both to weather changes and to possible changes in course and speed by the shipmaster. It is a system for tactical decisions of ship handling covering particular situations of rough weather. The innovation compared to existing systems lies in the prediction capability, which will be based on various computational methods.

The project will be based on a new consortium, benefiting from previous projects within navigation and seaworthiness, and aiming towards creating a decision-support tool for passenger comfort on ships.

Description of work

Scientific objectives:

Objective 1: development of the theoretical background necessary to properly forecast the occurrence and effects on ship structures of abnormally severe waves.

Objective 2: development of a methodology allowing the assessment of the severity of the sea state from the measured ship motions, thus avoiding the use of radar-based monitoring systems, which are costly and operationally demanding to use.

Objective 3: development of a model, here named ‘ship response model’, which automatically carries out all the required analyses and provides, in real time, the information necessary for optimal ship handling in heavy weather.

Objective 4: development of a representation of the ship’s current structural conditions that is simple and synthetic enough to be of real and concrete support to the shipmaster’s decisions.

Technical objectives:

Objective 5: development of monitoring devices able to measure accurately the motions of the ship.

Objective 6: development of a decision-support system integrating the various elements required for optimal ship handling in heavy weather and proof of concept through a full size operational system operating at sea.


The decision-support system to be developed in the project will have a positive impact on the competitiveness of EU industry and maritime transport efficiency. In fact the system will be conceived for installation on both new constructions and existing ships, thus addressing the competitiveness of both the EU ship manufacturing sector (new ships) and the EU maritime transport operators (existing ships).

Regarding the manufacturing sector, equipping a new ship with the decision-support system would improve its performance in terms of perspective operability. This would give a competitive advantage to the EU maritime manufacturing industry for both shipyards and equipment manufacturers.

A not-trivial percentage of ship accidents at sea are due to rough weather, which result in commercially adverse effects such as: delayed schedule, damages to cargo and/or passengers and the need for repair. Reducing the occurrence of these accidents would result in an increase of maritime transport efficiency.