Low bunker prices give ships greater flexibility for navigation

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With bunker prices very low as a result of COVID-19, ship operators are finding it less expensive to pay for fuel and take the longer route around the Cape Peninsula of Africa instead of paying to use the Suez canal. If bunker prices remain low, we might see ships continue to divert around the Cape Peninsula risking bad weather. The area is prone to winds due to the unobstructed path at a latitude of 40 degrees south (Roaring Forties). These winds cause swell waves that can build energy over the south Atlantic ocean as they move from west to east.

Spire provides WMS layers for winds, waves, and currents — all of which are highly relevant to seafarers in the Cape Peninsula region of the African coast. This short video created with Spire’s WMS layers shows wind gust contour lines on top of significant wave height in color.

The Cape Peninsula is not particularly treacherous at this time of year due to westerly winds keeping storms at bay, but this can change dramatically when the winter months approach. Even now with relatively calmer conditions, it is evident that the Cape Peninsula route is more susceptible to adverse weather conditions compared to the calm of the Suez Canal.

Spire AIS for Container Vessels going around cape after Suez:

In addition to swell waves created by the Roaring Forties, dangerous waves can also be generated closer to the peninsula, partly due to the proximity of the Agulhas and Benguela currents. This custom visualization of Spire Weather’s maritime data clearly shows both currents and their relative directions. Many historical shipwrecks have been caused by these conditions, but the route still maintains critical importance in the maritime industry.

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