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Better risk management for wintertime maritime transportation

The Stormwinds project run by Aalto University and its partners focuses on managing the risks of wintertime maritime transportation.
Aalto University School of Engineering

Funding of some €2 million was confirmed for the Stormwinds project at the beginning of April 2015. The project is being funded by the European Union and the BONUS, a joint Baltic Sea research and development programme.

'There is a lot of competition for BONUS programme funding, and only about 10% of the applications are approved,' states Professor Pentti Kujala from Aalto University, who specialises in maritime transportation safety issues.

The BONUS research and development programme began  in 2007 and looks for methods of keeping the Baltic Sea healthy and vibrant so that the ecosystem continues to offer people material and immaterial services in a sustainable manner.

A logistics analysis

The Stormwinds project studies the risks of wintertime maritime transportation and how to manage them. The aim is to produce practical recommendations, new methods and proposals that can improve the safety of wintertime maritime transportation and reduce the risk of environmental accidents.

The Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) centres located in Helsinki and St. Petersburg monitor maritime traffic in the Baltic Sea and provide vessel crews with instructions. During the winter, the VTS centres cooperate with icebreakers. The icebreakers provide vessels with waypoints to which they should navigate and then, if necessary, wait for icebreaker assistance.

The Stormwinds project is researching how VTS centre activities and their cooperation with icebreakers could be developed. One target is to create new instructions for the vessel traffic operator training provided at the VTS centres.

The project is systemically collecting data about vessel traffic, anticipation of dangerous situations, and decision-making in different situations. Another target of the research is the communication of ice condition information and route optimisation.

'More than 40 000 vessels visit Finland each year. This large logistics system has become modern through practice, but its activities have never been scientifically analysed. That is the intention in this project,' says Kujala.

International collaboration                

Postdoctoral researcher Floris Goerlandt from Aalto University is the project manager of the Stormwinds project. He will be defending his doctoral dissertation on risk management in maritime transportation this year. Also working on the project is doctoral candidate Osiris Valdez, who is writing his dissertation on the project theme – risk management for wintertime maritime transportation. Several master's theses are also being completed in Aalto University's part of the project.

Along with Aalto University, the project involves a total of seven universities and research institutes from Finland, Estonia, Sweden and Russia. Half of the funding comes from the EU and half from scientific funders in the participating countries. The Finnish funder is the Academy of Finland.

The BONUS programme for 2010–2017 has a overall budget of €100 million. A total of €17 million was awarded this time and, in addition to Stormwinds, seven other research projects received funding.

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