web analytics

Why SONATA is Making all the Right Waves in Stowage Improvements

The transformative impact that technology is making to all industries around the world is exciting and well-documented. This digitization trend – where artificial intelligence (AI) and computing technology is used to improve manual, time-consuming operations – has now reached the shores of conventional vessel stowage planning.
Those in the maritime industry know full well the reality of bad weather and the threat of capsized vessels and lost containers. AI and machine learning tools like SONATA helps to optimize the stowage of containers while ensuring that the bending moments, stresses, torsion, lashing forces and stability are within the acceptable limits.

What is Stowage Planning?

Essentially, stowage planning is the allocation of space on board a ship for containers (cargo) that must be loaded from a certain port(s) and discharged at a certain port(s), preferably without the need for the container to be rehandled at any of the way ports along the route.

Stowage planners allocate containers on the ship by specific rows, bays, and tiers. This is a very important ship operation function, if not the most important, and can be highly intensive from an activities and functions point of view.

What are the Challenges of Stowage Planners?

There are several challenges involved in efficiently operating a fleet of container ships that serve many ports. One of them involves coming up with a plan that allows for the quickest and most efficient transfer of containers to and from the ship. This is the role of the stowage planner. With the very large ships of today needing thousands of container movements to load and discharge, achieving such efficiency is a very real challenge. 

For a shipping concern to operate profitably it is imperative to optimize the utilization of the ship itself as well as improve port stay efficiency. Both are largely determined by how the containers are stowed on board the ship and the sequence in which they are loaded. 

Shifting, Restows and Overstows

Container ships have planned routes where they make scheduled calls at a series of ports within a service rotation.  Containers are unloaded at each port, and additional containers that need to be delivered at subsequent ports are loaded. The length of time it takes to load and unload these containers depends on the efficiency of the stowage plan. If this is not prepared well enough, it can result in unnecessary and expensive rehandling of containers in the yard, which is called shifting, as well as excessive crane times due to improper crane split planning.

In addition to shifting and improper crane split planning, restows may also cause delays if they are not adequately planned.. A restow is a move where a container is off loaded from on board the ship and then replaced back onto the ship at either the same stow-position or a different stow-position

An extended handling time can also be a result of over-stowage. This is when containers that should be unloaded at the current port are placed beneath other containers that are destined for a port further down the ship’s route. This results in the latter containers being temporarily unloaded at the current port. These temporarily unload containers (overstows) must then be re-loaded before the ship can leave. Overstows, restows and shifting cost more time and money. 

Allocating containers to bays above-deck and below-deck for optimal space-utilization and unloading-order is usually carried out manually on a spreadsheet or similar but digital platform. Aside from being massively time-consuming, it is often fraught with human errors, highly stressful, and is clearly not the most efficient way to mitigate such risk. While stowage planners are highly-skilled, hard-to-find professionals, they are traditionally required to use a lot of time in non-skilled tasks, like manually placing containers in the plan, which leaves little to no time to fully use their expertise in order to optimize the stowage plan.

What is SONATA?

SONATA is a fully-automated, interactive stowage planning tool that stores data in one central place. It usesOptimization algorithms, AI and machine learning to analyze cargo on board and then generates a volume and weight-optimized cargo plan based on load projections.

The tool then performs calculations based on the current loading condition to create the best-case stowage scenario. It does this by matching the right container size and weight to the space, maximizing the available space. It also considers the following when making these calculations:

  • Stack weight limits
  • Container size
  • Vessel stability
  • Trim and ballast
  • Visibility restrictions
  • Hull stress
  • Lashing forces
  • Hazardous cargo regulations
  • Segregation rules
  • Historical data of cargo mix for a specific service, leg, or season

As a result of SONATA’s fast and accurate algorithms, cargo lift is enhanced and net profit is positively impacted. 

“The wonder of it all, is that complex stowage planning takes less than 10 minutes with SONATA,” says Captain Vijay Minocha, Chief Commercial Officer of Solverminds Solutions and Technologies, “whereas before,a complex plan would take anywhere between 2-4 hours when planned on manual stowage softwares, not to mention the replans, which were often done several times due to last minute changes before coming to the best possible stow.” 

The Benefits of Stowage Planning Automation with SONATA

The benefits of using world-class technology to optimize stowage planning can be seen on the vessel itself, as well as operationally.

Vessel benefits

  • Maximized stowage
  • Minimized restows
  • Improved stability 
  • Reduced risk of compromised stability or container loss
  • Reduced risk of improper DG cargo segregation
  • Increased cargo capacity

Operational benefits

  • Immediate time-saving due to the removal of a manual, time-consuming stowage planning processes. This frees up planners to optimize the vessel’s intake and lower the risk of catastrophic events.
  • Facilitates multi-port planning, round voyage analysis, and cargo feasibility checks.
  • Improved communications between trade managers and stowage planners.
  • Real-time, well-defined dashboards and reports give decision-makers the power of clarity. This could be for changes in allocation, sub-partners and vessel size.
  • Eliminates and bridges organizational silos through centralized information available to the right people.
  • Reliable, stable DG segregation and lashing calculations.
  • Live cargo forecast feeds and dynamic capacity control allows planners to make decisions real-time.
  • Lowered operational costs.
  • Reduced port dwell time.

Take Full Advantage of the Benefits of Stowage Technology for Stress-Free, Safe, and Reliable Voyage

Let SONATA do the stowage planning heavy-lifting for you, so that you have peace of mind for optimized cargo allocation and planning.

See what SONATA can do for you, today!

The information or views expressed in this article is authentic to the best of our knowledge, and as such, it is prone to errors and the absence of some key information, for more information please review our Terms of Use.