Smart weather buoys

Weather is the major cause for maritime accidents, shipping and cargo losses, injuries, and even fatalities. Ships operating in bad weather conditions have to increase their power and use more fuel, and lose an average of 1,390 containers into the sea annually.[1,2] The international ocean observation market is estimated to be greater than $27bn and growing with new users in the fishing industry, drone operators, and environmental observation.[3,4]

Weather buoys monitor conditions and radio transmit data to weather centers on an hourly basis.[5] The centers then process the data and publish updated weather, wind, and wave forecasts.[6] The growing need for increased precision and more varied data for new users requires more power to supply these systems.[3] At present, the operating life of a buoy sending one message an hour is only 30 months, and this would decrease further if it were to send information continuously.[1]

The development of Internet-connected smart buoys that provide real-time forecasting data will be able to detect and warn users of bad weather, allowing ship operators to react earlier and adjust their course accordingly. Furthermore, limited, interrupted, and delayed Internet connectivity at sea makes safety regulators hesitant to allow for the switch from radio to Internet.[7]

When will the use of smart buoys become an accepted practice in the North Sea?

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[1] Zhang, Z. and Li, X.M., 2017. Global ship accidents and ocean swell-related sea states. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 17(11), pp.2041-2051.
[2]Schuler, M., (2017), Number of Containers Lost at Sea Falling, Survey Shows, gCaptain
[3] Market Study Report, (2019), At 3.8% CAGR, Beacon Buoys Market Size Poised to Touch USD 91 Million by 2024, MENAfn
[4] Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, (2019), Ocean Observation and Navigation
[5]Maritime injury center, (2020), Martime Weather Forecasting, maritimeinjurycenter
[6] Data Buoy Cooperation Panel, (2020), Uses of Buoy Data, jcommops
[7] MET office: Coast and Sea, (2020), Shipping forecast and gale warnings,
More Information:
Poli, Paul, Ruiz Gil de la Serna, María Isabel, Herklotz, Kai, Emzivat, Gilbert, Kleta, Henry, & Cohuet, Jean-baptiste. (2017). Automated surface marine observations from European data buoys. Zenodo.
Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality, (2019), Safety and Shipping Review 2019: An annual review of trends and developments in shipping losses and safety, Allianz
DW, (2019)Cargo ship loses 270 containers near German island in North Sea, DW
ConWX, (2019), Metocean forecasts, ConWX
Prates, C., Andersson, E., Haiden, T., 2019, WIGOS Data Quality Monitoring System at ECMWF, ECMWF
Maritime knowledge, (2018), Bridge Procedures: The importance of passage planning, Safety4Sea
Riviera Newsletters, (March/2016), Passage planning should include weather routeing, Rivieramm
Bernard, E., & Titov, V. (2015). Evolution of tsunami warning systems and products. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 373(2053), 20140371.


By Matthew J. Spaniol