An Enhanced operational System for wave monitoring and Prediction with Applications in Hellenic Navigation


The objective of the proposal is the design, development and operation of an Enhanced operational System for wave monitoring and Prediction giving special emphasis in applications to HEllenic Navigation (ESPEN system). The ESPEN system will be a multi-functional and multi-layered system, who's operation is expected to a) contribute substantially to resolve a major socioeconomic problem in Hellenic Shipping which concerns the constant and often pointless application of sailing suspension of car-passenger vessels due to bad weather conditions and b) cover, to a large degree, issues relating to the reliable knowledge of the prevailing sea-state and wave forecasting in the Hellenic Seas. The whole project is based on two scientific - technological pivotal points: i) The reliable and analytical (in space and time) short-term forecasting of the sea-state conditions, in relation to the (near real-time) knowledge of the prevailing sea conditions with the aid of "smart and handy" wave buoys and ii) knowledge of the dynamic behavior, safety and operability of ships in the forecasted sailing conditions. The experience of the last few years from the operation of the POSEIDON system (see a relevant paper in the list of research projects for the description of the POSEIDON system) has shown that the Aegean Sea consists of a mosaic of different small seas with dissimilar climatology, wave characteristics, and short-term wave patterns. Thus, the first main deliverable of the project consists of the National Forecasting System of the condition of the Hellenic Seas, namely a complete and integrated system of coupled atmospheric and wave numerical models with the objective of a more detailed and reliable forecast of the sea conditions. The successful operation of this system relies on availability of wave measurements in particular sea areas and is expected to result in significant benefits: 1) Increase the safety and effectiveness of sea transport, 2) support, improve and optimize the design of ships and other floating structures which will operate in the Hellenic Seas (allowing the long-term prediction of design values based on reliable statistical wave data), 3) contribute decisively in search and rescue missions in the marine environment, given that the existing POSEIDON network will expand and get upgraded and that the integrated monitoring and forecasting system will be operational, 4) facilitate the insurance companies in assessing insurance coverage of floating devices by using reliable statistical data and measurements. The second main deliverable relates to the design, development, construction and operation of four handy, low-cost and autonomous directional wave buoys of Greek technology for the measurement of wave characteristics and data transmission in near real time to land stations and users on board. The information/data of these wave buoys in combination with those of floating oceanographic measurement stations of the existing POSEIDON network, will help substantially the implementation of the forecasting system covering also other needs and requirements of the whole project. One more benefit, indicates that with the industrial production of the wave buoy one more competitive product, by international standards, is created. The third main deliverable of the project is a pilot system for the early and reliable warning of vessels which are on route to dangerous wave and wind phenomena, improving in this way their operability and safety. The same system will be utilized by relevant entities (harbor authorities, General Secretariat of Civil Protection) in coastal inhabited areas of their responsibility. The fourth main deliverable is a software system which will allow improved decision-making capability regarding the sailing suspension (due to bad weather conditions) of passenger-car vessels of Hellenic coastal navigation, as well as the facilitation of optimal ship routing taking into consideration i) the comfort of the passengers, and ii) the short term wave forecasting. The fifth main deliverable is the design, development and operation of an integrated hardware and software platform of communication between the various organizations participating in the project with the Operational Centre (which will be located at NCMR premises during the project). The sixth main deliverable of the project is a Wind and Wave Atlas for the Hellenic Seas (in hardcopy and digital format). This Atlas will become available from 10 years (at least) numerical simulations and will also include the measurements of the POSEIDON system during the years 1999-2004. The Wind and Wave Atlas provides a useful tool for all the users who are concerned with the marine environment, as it describes concisely the basic wind and wave climatic characteristics of the Hellenic seas.

From the above it becomes obvious that the proposed project is effectively of national range and interest. At the end of the project, all the results will become available to Hellenic National Meteorological Service who will be responsible for the operation of the system, while the end-user will be the Ministry of Mercantile Marine. Some parts of the results will be directly commercialized (the Wind and Wave Atlas, the ship routing optimization system, the directional wave buoys), and at the same time setting the stage for the creation of a spin off company. The benefits which will result for private companies and the relevant entities will be multiple: The participation of the public and private entities to a strong and multi-sectored nucleus, will combine scientific and industrial research and will make available new and reliable products, methodologies and services, which will relate to: 1) the rational decision-making process for the sailing of ships, taking into account the weather and sea-state conditions and the type (or category) of ship, 2) the early warning for dangerous wind/wave phenomena, 3) the knowledge of the wave potential of the Hellenic seas, 4) the reliable weather and sea-state forecast and 5) the construction of a new high technology wave buoy in Greece. The scientific personnel of the participating entities will benefit by getting experience in applications of new technologies and methods, enlarging at the same time their scientific background and expertise, opening new horizons for work and employment.

Description of the submitted project

a) Objectives and targets of the proposed project

The main objective of the proposed work is the design, development and distribution to the relevant national entities of all the scientific means and technological tools, which are required for the rationalization of decision-making concerning sailing suspension of ships carrying passengers and vehicles due to bad weather conditions. The measure of suspension of sailing due to bad weather has become in the last several years an important multifaceted socioeconomic problem with many aspects and two main components: a) the legal component which will not concern us in this project and b) the scientific component which presumes the systematic assessment of ships and their operational environment with respect to a large group of parameters, which will support any attempt for modifying the legal status quo.

As regards ships operational environment, we can mention that the Aegean Sea (and secondly the rest of the Hellenic seas) consists of an elaborate wave-dynamics system exhibiting some special characteristics and particularities. The presence of many island complexes, the complicated bottom topography, the presence of channels and related wave channelling phenomena (occurring especially in Dardaneles, Crete - Antikythira and Crete - Karpathos straits), the large areas of wave shadows (mainly in island complexes) etc, add particular characteristics to the dominant patterns of wave propagation and render the analytical study and forecasting of wave conditions a goal particularly difficult and challenging. An efficient assessment of ships operational environment should be based: a) on a more reliable and detailed forecasting information in terms of meteorology as well as in the wave forecasting level itself, b) on the availability of real-time measured wave data, that will be reflecting in a completely reliable way the prevailing sea state condition, while also improving the accuracy of wave forecasts. The loss of the passenger ship Heraklio near Falconera Isl. in 1966, forced the authorities to establish measures for the suspension of sailing due to bad weather. Even though there is an obvious and general usefulness of this measure in terms of safeguarding ship safety, experience has proved that the system is in need of improvement as new technological developments permit nowadays a much more accurate assessment of ship safety. In general terms, the problem occurring by the suspension of sailing of ships due to bad weather could be summarized as follows: In the fleet of Hellenic coastal shipping coexist ships of new and older technology, with different ages and different characteristics with respect to their dynamic behavior in waves, other safety and operational features, and, in general, different design and building philosophy (in terms of displacement, geometry, hydrodynamic characteristics, the sea area of operation, service speed), etc. On the other hand as mentioned previously, the area of ship operation presents important dissimilarities and particularities of local character with regard to the evolution of wave parameters and wave forecasting issues. Accordingly, the rationalization or modification of the sailing suspension measures due to bad weather must count upon all the above-mentioned issues in a rational way, and on each one of these with the required importance.

Summing up the main points of the problem, a scientific-technological approach for rationalizing the decision-making of sailing suspension of ships due to bad weather should rely on the following aspects: i) Reliable forecasting of weather and wave conditions (sea-state conditions), ii) accurate and prompt information about the prevailing sea state in order to assimilate data and improve the forecasting quality iii) knowledge of the dynamic behavior, safety and operability characteristics of ships in the forecasted sea-state, in order to evaluate in a more meaningful manner the relevant necessity and importance of imposing sailing suspension measures for each one of the respective ships (or ship categories). Finally, one more step in the above process should be iv) the integration of steps i)-iii) in an automated, as much as possible, decision-making system. The Ministry of Mercantile Marine will use this system, in order to facilitate its services.

The analytical design, implementation and completion of these steps for developing an Enhanced operational System for wave monitoring and Prediction which will be used operationally to satisfy the requirements of HEllenic Navigation (ESPEN), is the most important target of this project. In conclusion, the targets of the project are distinguished in two main parts: i) The reliable nowcast and short-term sea-state - weather forecast, and ii) The "identification" of criteria for passenger ships based primarily on seakeeping, safety, operability and passenger comfort in a wavy sea. In regard to the first objective, the targets are:

T.1 The development and implementation of a reliable coupled wind - wave forecasting system and its evaluation by means of in-situ measurements and satellite data. Given that the reliable and prompt forecast of the wind field consist the most important factors in the reliable forecast of sea-state, the weather forecasting system should satisfy some important requirements (apart, of course, of the "good physics" of the model), such as fine spatial analysis, speedy production of forecasting data and assimilation of real-time measurements in the forecasting process, etc. The wave forecasting system will consist of two one-way coupled models: one offshore and one coastal wave-forecasting model. It is known that for the forecast of wave conditions in the coastal zone, the use of shallow-water wave models is required. These models take into consideration all the relevant phenomena of wave propagation in shallow waters (where bathymetry exhibits abrupt changes and the effects of currents could be important), while they will utilize the offshore wave forecasts and the available (local) wave measurements by means of an appropriate numerical wave data assimilation scheme. Special emphasis will be also given in the evaluation of wind and wave forecasting models, by means of a) local in-situ measurements, b) data from the meteorological stations of the Hellenic National Meteorological Service, as well as c) ENVISAT satellite data, in order to adopt the most reliable ones. It is noted that for the first time in Greece 1) a tightly-coupled wind - wave forecasting system will be implemented, 2) a systematic evaluation of the available wind and wave models will be performed and 3) a numerical wave data assimilation scheme for coastal wave forecasting will be developed.
T.2 The development and operation of a pilot warning system for hazardous wave and weather (wind) phenomena which could threaten coastal inhabited areas and sailing ships. The definition of "alarm levels" will be based on statistical data and co-operation with relevant entities (Port Authorities, General Secretariat of Civil Protection, Local Government etc). The same warning system will inform as well ships on route when the weather / sea conditions near port of call are not fit for entry, docking and maneuvering. This target is also proposed for the first time in Greece.
T.3 The construction and operation of a handy, low-cost, autonomous directional wave buoy of Greek technology, which will be easily deployed and retrieved and will require limited effort and expenditure for maintenance. This wave-measuring device will be designed to operate in coastal areas but with a different anchoring system. It will be able also to operate in offshore locations and fulfill today's and future's requirements of Hellenic and Mediterranean Operational Oceanography. The target is the creation in the immediate future of a competitive product by international standards, while in the frame of this project, the data from this wave buoy as well as from the POSEIDON network buoys will be used for the evaluation and adaptation of the forecasting system. It is noted that after the construction of the oceanographic station MEDOUSA from the Marine Technology and Development Company SA (which is in the process of liquidation), for the first time in Greece will be developed a flexible and low cost directional wave buoy of Greek technology.
T.4 The design, implementation and production of a Wind and Wave Atlas for the Hellenic Seas, based on a 10-year historical data. The Atlas will be based to a great extent in hindcast results, but will also include the measurements of the POSEIDON system for the years 1999-2004. The Atlas will be published in a printed as well as digital format (CD). The single other Wind and Wave Atlas for the Hellenic Seas was published in 1992 (is out of print), and is based on visual observations which have questionable reliability.
T.5 The design, development, implementation and operation of an advanced telecommunication system, for the management and exploitation of the forecasting results and real-time wave measurements. This system will serve the communication requirements between ships - port authorities, (which participate in this project), and the operational centre which will be hosted, during the project, in the NCMR premises. At the end of the project the complete software will be delivered to the Hellenic National Meteorological Service for servicing its operational needs, while the Ministry of Merchant Marine will be the final end - user of the system products.

In regard to the proposed project's second objective, its targets are:

T.6 The development of a methodology for hazard identification and operability assessment of coastal ships in a given sea state. In this methodology will be based the development of a decision making system for the departure control of RO-RO ships and the necessity of imposing specific restrictions (as e.g., determination of a particular route; see also the following target T.7). The methodology that will be developed follows the general directions of Formal Safety Assessment, which has been adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the development of new rules. The ship capability of facing given weather conditions will be assessed, regarding several characteristics of her behaviour (mainly concerning large amplitude ship motions in waves, dynamic stability, maneuverability etc). The risk level concerning a particular voyage will be evaluated and the decision-making system will be based on the comparison of the calculated index with an accepted one according to the existing international standards.
T.7 The development of criteria for the passengers comfort which will improve the quality of sea transport and allow a rational decision making process for the captain and his actions (change of route and /or speed of the ship) in case of storm. The choice will be based on the identification of the ships behaviour in a grid of speed and heading wave angles. Furthermore, based on the ESPEN system the captain will be able to determine the optimal ship route (in terms of time and cost) given the geographic area, bathymetry and the forecasted sea conditions. The trials on two representative coastal ships will determine the effectiveness of the system.
T.8 The proposal of a comprehensive decision making system, which will integrate the results of the above two targets. The process developed will provide to the Ministry of Merchant Marine the methodology and necessary tools, which will allow the advancement toward the modification of the outdated ordinance, Art. Nr. 9 of the Greek Marine Safety Manual: "Actions of Port Authorities in case of adverse weather conditions" (EAN 9).

b) Expected results and deliverables / benefits for the participating organizations

The expected results and deliverables can be summarized as follows:

  • The first result of the proposed project is the latest and more powerful versions of the atmospheric models SKIRON and RAMS and the two available wave models WAM-Cycle 4 and WAVEWATCH III (in operational mode).
  • In the sequel, the main deliverable will be the National Forecasting System for the state of the Hellenic Seas. It is a system of coupled atmospheric and wave numerical models aiming to a more detailed and accurate sea state forecast in an operational level. It will consist of the best combination of atmospheric and wave models, which will result from the systematic evaluation with in-situ measurements and satellite data of the wind/wave parameters for the Hellenic seas.
  • In cooperation with the abovementioned system, will be the operational nearshore wave forecasting system, which will be based on a wave-forecasting model suitable for the wave propagation in coastal zones. The model will operate in a one-way connection to the offshore wave model, from where will retrieve data and meanwhile will be able to assimilate wave data from buoy(s) located in the area of interest.
  • A basic technological deliverable of the proposed project will be four (one prototype and three derivatives) user-friendly, low-cost, autonomous directional wave buoy produced in Greece for measuring the wave characteristics and for the near real time transmission of data to land. These wave buoys in combination with the POSEIDON buoy network will provide more detailed and reliable information about the state of the Hellenic Seas.
  • An advanced telecommunication system, for the management and exploitation of the forecasting results and real-time wave measurements. This system will serve the communication requirements between ships - port authorities, and the operational centre which will be hosted, during the project, in the NCMR premises.
  • A pilot warning system (supported from the abovementioned telecommunication system) for hazardous wave and weather (wind) phenomena that could threaten coastal inhabited areas. The same warning system will inform as well ships on route when the weather / sea conditions near port of call are not fit for entry, docking and maneuvering. This system will be available to ships on route and the responsible national authorities for the optimization and efficiency of sailing and the protection of coastal inhabited regions, respectively.
  • Software for hazard identification and operability assessment of ships in a given sea state. Following this, a methodology for the development of a decision making system for the departure control of RO-RO ships and the necessity of imposing specific restrictions (as e.g., determination of a particular route).
  • Software that will contribute substantially in the decision-making with regard to the optimal ship routing problem based on the ship characteristics, the comfort of passengers and the short-term wave forecast on her route.
  • An important result of numerical simulations will be the hindcast time series of the main wind and wave parameters for the Hellenic seas of duration of 10 at least years, on which will be based the production of Wind and Wave Atlas for the Hellenic seas (available in printed and electronic form).
  • Towards the commercial activities an exploitation plan concerning the promotion and exploitation of the project results will be delivered (directional wave buoys, Wind and Wave Atlas for the Hellenic seas, software for facilitating the decision-making process with regard to the optimal ship routing).
  • Aiming at the briefing of the public and of participating organizations in the project, a web site will be created, while at the same time will be held informative meetings, and booklets and informative bulletins for possible users of the system will be printed and distributed.

The proposed project provides the possibility of effective participating and collaboration among research, productive and national end-users, that are related immediately or indirectly with various sectors of marine environment. This cooperation combines (basic and applied) scientific and industrial research with socio-economic benefits in a level of national priorities, development, enhancement and new prospects for the productive institutions and promotion of basic research for the marine environment. More specifically:

  • The proposed project is really important at a national level since two of the participating organizations, Hellenic National Meteorological Service (HNMS) and the Mercantile Marine Ministry (MMM) are also important users of ESPEN system. Results - products will be directly available for immediate use and evaluation by HNMS and MMM. In this way, HNMS will be equipped with a powerful and reliable tool for wave forecasting, while MMM will be able, for the first time, to use a system based on a rational decision making procedure concerning the suspension of sailing due to bad whether.
  • On the other hand, the advancement of the skill of the forecasting models will substantially improve the decision-making procedures for the suspension of sailing due to bad weather. In this way, one of the main requests of coastal maritime companies seems to work towards an end.
  • The operation, efficiency and safety of ships on route is improving through a system of early warning of hazardous wind/wave phenomena, while the efficiency of sea transportation is also improving through a decision-system for optimal ship routing.
  • Some other results of the proposed project will be directly commercialized (directional wave buoys, the optimal ship route system, the Wind and Wave Atlas for the Hellenic seas). This will be quite profitable for the involved users, either through the product sales or/and through copyrights.
  • Furthermore, the cooperation of R&D partners with the other partners of the project will be realized through the commercial exploitation - evaluation of its results and on a more profitable and stable socio - economic base.
  • The personnel of the involved partners will get more expertise and experience as far as the implementation of modern methods and technologies is concerned, under the motive of the construction and promotion of competitive products.
  • Moreover the training of national entities (HNMS and MMM) staff has been taken into account, in order to learn and get used to the new scientific - technological tools, for the benefit of the public.
  • The realization of the proposed project will create a need for new labor positions. This will result to the direct benefit of the society and the development of the relevant participants.
  • The R&D partners, due to the need for operability of the deliverable system, will systematize and enhance the basic research, so that they achieve more reliable results without spending too much computational time for the numerical models integration. Simultaneously, the young researchers, through the cooperation with the productive firms and the users will be aware the point of contact of basic research and its results with the industrial research and the final application.

Finally, important benefit for all the participating organizations, through the close collaboration for the achievement of the objectives of ESPEN, will be the awareness of need of creating similar powerful core-cooperation between research and productive institutions, but also end-users, aiming at the multilevel research and exploitation of results in sectors of national importance, as is the marine environment.

c) Implementing Organisations

Organisations Abbreviated
Contact person /
Name - Position
Legal status
and type (2)
Fax, e-mail
1. National Centre for Marine Research - Inst. of Oceanography Dr Takvor Soukissian Associate Researcher Public R&D Institution +30-22910-76399 +30-22910-76323 tsouki 'at'
1. Hellenic National Meteorological Service Theagenis Charantonis Head of Research Section Public Service +30-210-9699024 +30-210-9628962 +30-210-9629408 tchara 'at'
2. MARAC Electronics S.A. Antonis Kantidakis Project Manager Private Company +30-210-4314361 +30-210-4314234 kantidakis 'at'
3. ANCO S.A. Emmanouel Psaromanolakis Production Development Private Company +30-210-9209200 +30-210-9209345 dm 'at'
4. Hellenic Register of Shipping S.A. Constantinos Politis - Dr Naval Architect Marine Engineer - Dept. of Research and Development Private Company +30-210-4221900 +30-210-4221914 poli 'at'
5. National Technical University of Athens Theodoros Loukakis Professor & Kostas Spyrou Asst. Professor Public R&D Institution +30-210-7721061 +30-210-7721418 +30-210-7721032 +30-210-7721408 loukakis 'at'
spyrou 'at'
6. Institute of Accelerating Systems and Applications George Kallos Associate Professor Public R&D Institution +30-210-7276923 +30-210-7276765 kallos 'at'
7. TEXT Ltd. Co. Antonis Poulides Administartor Private Company +30-210-9854444 +30-210-9854445 info 'at'
8. Blue Star Ferries S.A. Antonis Linardos Marine Operations Manager Private Company +30-210-8919850 +30-210-8919859 linados 'at'
bluestarferries. com
9. Ministry of Mercantile Marine Mihail Mantzafos, Captain of the Hellenic Coast Guard Public Service +30-210-4191957
1. Faculty of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, NTUA Gerassimos Athanassoulis Professor Public R&D Institution +30-210-7721136 +30-210-7721136 mathan 'at'
2. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki - Dept. of Civil Engineering Christoforos Koutitas Professor Public R&D Institution +30-2310-995701 +30-2310-995658 koutitas 'at'
3. SPIRIT S.A. Nikolaos Skarpetis General Manager Private Company +30-210-9483273 +30-210-9419920
nsk 'at'


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