TestLab: Weather app automates maritime transport

A weather observation system developed by Oulu-based TestLab Finland can be used to communicate weather information to ships regardless of their location. The MareCast service facilitates international maritime transport and saves seafaring ships thousands of euros a month thanks to better route choices.

MareCast is the most intelligent weather observation system in the world. That is the opinion of Janne Tolonen, one of the founders of TestLab, the technological platform for the system. And he has a good reason to praise the application: It forecasts winds, ocean currents, waves and wave heights. It provides information about the past, the present and the future. The service can even forecast ice conditions.

"We are able to provide real-time information about the thickness of ice and the movements of ice floes. That is what sets us apart from our competitors", Tolonen says.

MareCast's biggest benefit is the possibility of route optimisation. The application factors in different weather parameters and suggests more economical route alternatives to captains.

"The correct choice of route can save between five and ten per cent in fuel costs", Tolonen explains.

Modernising maritime transport

TestLab wanted to revolutionise the predictability of maritime transport. In the past, information was communicated to ships at sea via satellites, which was extremely expensive. The data transmitted by MareCast can be customised: Captains can select a specific area and parameters from the service according to what they want to know. Only the selected information is transmitted.

"The cost of the service is completely different thanks to optimisation", Tolonen explains.
MareCast also improves the visibility of ships. In the future, ship and cargo owners, customs and the authorities can see where ships are in real-time.

In practice, MareCast modernises maritime transport. The service would benefit all ships in northern seas, and it therefore has obvious commercial potential.

"For example, being able to see when exactly ships are coming and going makes the logistics chain more efficient", Tolonen explains.

Tekes brought a critical approach

MareCast was developed in collaboration with the Finnish Meteorological Institute. TestLab provides the technological platform for the product, and the weather data for the service comes from the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Tekes has been involved in the MareCast project since the beginning. Tekes has provided support for product development, for example, and acted as a sparring partner in the implementation of the project.

Tolonen explains that Tekes's critical approach meant that every detail had to be carefully considered.

"Our plans were so detailed that there was no need to think about what would come next. Tekes knew how to question things. They made us think about back-up plans: how we can prepare for different kinds of scenarios and ensure access to competent human resources, for example. We also planned our subcontracting network in advance."

Tolonen explains that MareCast is still being developed all the time. Pilot versions of the system were installed in early summer last year, and the current version is the third pilot version.

"We are constantly modifying the algorithm and forecasts to make them even better and to make it easier for ships to navigate in difficult conditions. The goal is to make it possible for ships to cross oceans on their own."

For further information

Janne Tolonen
TestLab Finland Ltd
tel. +358 44 5000 651

Sanna Nuutila