The Value of Ocean Surface Wind Information for Maritime Commerce Academic Article uri icon


  • Observations, nowcasts, and forecasts of ocean surface wind conditions are of economic value to activities such as maritime transportation, commercial fishing, offshore energy, recreational boating, and search and rescue. In this paper, we estimate the value to the maritime shipping industry of ocean surface wind information and of wind and wave condition forecasts based on this information. Commercial ships transiting the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans are exposed to severe wind and wave conditions associated with extratropical storms. These storms impose costs on maritime commerce by delaying and sometimes damaging vessels or causing loss of cargo. Ocean surface wind information allows ships to limit their exposure to these conditions. We estimate that average expected annual losses to container shipping (lost containers and associated damage to vessels) in the absence of good information about extratropical storm conditions would be on the order of $250 million/year in the North Pacific and $120 million/year in the North Atlantic, and we estimate average expected annual losses to bulk shipping operations from extratropical storm exposure in these regions to be on the order of $150 million/year. A significant fraction of this risk can be avoided with ocean surface vector wind observations and forecasts. Our model results suggest that the QuikSCAT information (available until November 2009) and associated forecasts enabled a reduction in annual exposure for shipping traffic in the North Atlantic and North Pacific of about 50%, with total annual net savings around $150 million. The estimate of annual benefits to shipping operations from a hypothetical improved satellite instrument is around $200 million.

publication date

  • January 1, 2011