The Vento Team (Hans Christian Hansen, right side)
„All in all, the nowcast solution was much better and gave more value for the money.“
Hans Christian Hansen
This articel takes you on an interesting ride of fact & feelings, when Hans Christian Hansen, COO of Vento Maritime Denmark, talks about his journey from working at a state institution to starting his own private company together with his business partner Carsten Kofoed, developing sophisticated and customized services with key customers from the off-shore energy sector and being part of the green transition. Dive into this fascinating story and learn why nowcast is their clear choice for lightning data provision and how they conducted intensive investigation of sources and quality in order to deliver services based on highest standards to their demanding customers …
Today we have the pleasure to conduct an interview with our brand-new Partner Vento Maritime and its COO Hans Christian Hansen.
Hans Christian is a weather forecaster and looks back to more than 15 years of experience in the Weather industry and weather services. He’s an expert in maritime forecasting and has founded Vento Maritime in 2017 together with his business-partner Carsten Kofoed.
Dear Hans Christian, could you please briefly describe the Services of Vento Maritime and how you founded the company together with your business-partner Carsten Kofoed?
HCH: Overall, we offer three kinds of services: Offshore Weather Service, Strategic Weather Routing and MetOcean Consultancy.
The Offshore Weather Service is tailor made for the offshore industry and is based on our long experience in the business. In fact, all our various services are tailor made to fulfil the needs of the offshore wind industry, partly thanks to the Danish company Ørsted, a great and loyal collaboration partner, when designing and adjusting the services. We always strive to meet our client’s needs, and therefore often make custom made products just for them.
The MetOcean forecast data is based on high-resolution models from our partner, the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI). All the different MetOcean parameters are displayed on a web portal that is hosted and provided by DMI. With this service, detailed high-quality MetOcean forecast data are available for specific locations, requested by our clients, and the data are verified and validated on a regular basis in order to improve forecast accuracy.
Our Site Forecasts and Transit Forecasts are carefully prepared written forecasts, including the synoptic situation in terms of lows, highs and fronts, comments regarding confidence level of the MetOcean forecasts and thus, how reliable the displayed forecast data is.
Remarks regarding relevant weather conditions, according to the client’s operation, or transit criteria and therefore comments on potential weather windows are also included.
This kind of forecast is beneficial both for sites like an Offshore Wind Farm (OWF) or a vessel in transit. The duty marine forecaster will be up to date with the operational progress and will adjust the written comments accordingly – we believe that value is created in close dialogue between the client and the duty forecaster.
Weather forecasts always come with a degree of uncertainty. The problem for clients is to know how big that uncertainty is in a given situation. Just how predictable are the atmosphere and the oceans in a particular place at a particular time? We help our clients to evaluate this.
With our Lightning Alert Service, we actively monitor for approaching thunderstorms and lightning strikes, and make every effort to provide an alert two hours in advance before a high risk of lightning occurs.
The Strategic Weather Routing is route optimisation for to the global merchant fleet. The aim of our service is to ensure safe ocean crossings, enhanced to save fuel and reduce CO2 emissions. Our route suggestions are adjusted by considering all relevant MetOcean parameters and are evaluated strategically, in accordance with projected weather developments 10-15 days ahead. We provide both full voyage service and on demand routing service for ad hoc route advice.
In our MetOcean Consultancy, we offer customised reports, where the result can be used for optimum planning of an upcoming offshore operation, or for evaluating a possible operation prior to a tendering process for a project.
We provide tailor-made MetOcean analyses with detailed information about what conditions to expect, including frequency and extremes. Analyses are typically based on planned/tentative operational weather criteria, which gives precise statistical results of what time of year an operation best is carried out. Furthermore, the expected average duration of completion of the operation is presented, along with worst-case and best-case scenarios.
We founded Vento Maritime in January 2017 after we both quit our job in a closing commercial maritime department at the Danish Meteorological Institute. We both wanted to continue in the maritime business providing weather related services.
However, for me it was with a bit of fear and anxiety to quit a job after 12 years working for the state – and now I had to earn my own salary. As a father to three boys and with a wife, a house, a car etc. you’ll have to think twice compared to when I was in my twenties.
Fortunately, we were able to gain customers within the first months and has been providing daily service since Q2 2017.
Lightning data seems to be an important factor for your services. May I ask you to give a short description of how it is used and how it serves your customers?
HCH: Our Lightning Alert Service enables our clients to launch the necessary precautions and improve the safety at sea. The operational procedures for this service are developed in close cooperation with Ørsted’s Danish OWFs.
Our service setup does not only take detected lightning strikes into account. Instead, our trained marine meteorologists monitor and analyses the lightning potential of near future developing thunderstorms and communicate the risk to the client both by phone and email as swiftly as possible. Our aim is to improve safety whilst also optimising the use of weather windows.
For planning, we issue our Lightning Risk Matrix. The matrix displays a prediction of the likelihood of lightning for every hour two days in advance – with red, yellow and green colours for high, medium and low risk respectively. It’s made after a thorough analysis of the weather development in the coming days, to give the best possible evaluation, hour by hour, of the lightning risk level expected in the area.
Our clients often tell us that they feel we are really watching their back and that they value the possibility of talking with a professional marine forecaster during these occasions.
In order to offer the most accurate services to your customers you have recently compared different sources for lightning data and nowcast was your choice after your careful internal analysis of the different providers. Can you tell us some bits about the process?
HCH: We shortlisted two companies providing lightning data and associated software – the two companies were nowcast and a US-company. Then we tested their data and platform for a 14-day period in late summer along with our Lightning Alert Service for our clients. We also compared the lightning data with three publicly available lightning data systems – a German lightning detection system and the national lightning detection systems in the UK and Denmark.
Very quickly we could see the difference in the lightning data quality. When we monitor the formation and lifecycle of thunderstorms, we use weather radar, satellite images, high-resolution forecast etc. We therefore have a rather good indication for when and where lightning detections are likely and when they are false detections. During the comparison we saw several occasions where the US-company failed to detect any lightning at all in an evolving thunderstorm and in other occasions false detected lightning occurred in a large distance from any thunderstorm.
Regarding the speed, we often saw the nowcast software LINET View display detections several minutes before the other systems. Speed is also an important parameter for us but not as important as the ability to detect as many lightning as possible.
Besides of this, the user experience of LINET View was also significantly better than the other platform. Email or SMS alerts for self-made areas were very easy to setup and worked very stable. All in all, the nowcast solution was much better and gave more value for the money. We will therefore use the LINET View solution from Spring 2021.
Vento Maritime serves demanding customers offshore. How do the customer’s needs differ from those of onshore customers and what are the big challenges?
HCH: In the wind industry you can easily raise the cost by a factor ten if you go from onshore to offshore. Onshore, technicians going to a wind turbine for maintenance can just take a van but offshore you have to sail or fly by helicopter. This is of course much more expensive, and planning is thus mandatory. Offshore, you have to take the weather conditions into account as strong winds will be a showstopper for sailing. The reason for this is that strong winds build up waves to a height that sometimes is too high for the Crew Transfer Vessels or the larger Service Operation Vessels. It is of course not beneficial to sail from a harbour early morning just to realize that the waves are too high when you arrive in an offshore wind farm after 1-2 hours – and then have to sail all the way back again.
Another weather parameter that can be a showstopper are thunderstorms. In the Offshore Wind industry, it is generally not accepted that technicians work in or on a wind turbine if there is a high risk of lightning in the area. This is a challenge we help our clients with based on our Lightning Alert Service. Besides of alerting them 1-2 hours before high risk of lightning we also help them plan the next day based on the risk of lightning. This is especially important in the summer season, where you often can have weaker winds and lower waves, but much more frequent forming thunderstorms.
Even more demanding is providing weather service for the construction of a new OWF as the installation vessels for installing foundations and wind turbines are extremely expensive. The rent is normally 100-200.000 EUR – daily! It is therefore crucial to help the client finding every workable weather window in order to get the job done as quickly as possible within the safety margins.
What is most important for you and Vento Maritime, when it comes to working with partners and suppliers?
HCH: It must be trust. If you can’t trust your partner or supplier then you should consider finding a substitute you can trust.
How have you been handling the COVID-19 pandemic?
HCH: Luckily, our clients have been working every day during the pandemic – and the weather has of course continued unaffected. We have therefore not had any clients cancelling our service. Operationally, we have been working partly from home and partly from our office. Fortunately, we had the technical setup already – both for backup and also for the shifts in the weekend. You can say that we went in weekend-mode from March 11th when the Danish government made a national lockdown. What has affected us most is the very limited physical events where we previously used to be networking with clients and potential customers.
Last but certainly not least: What do you personally like best about your job and the mission you are on with Vento Maritime?
HCH: Being part of the Green Transition. The Offshore Wind industry will most likely grow exponentially – and we are a tiny piece of this great adventure. That is one of the best things working in Vento Maritime – and of course also due to my childish fascination of the weather. Thunderstorms are just cool! …and also dangerous. That’s one of the reasons for why nowcast and Vento Maritime exists.
Thank you very much Hans Christian! We look forward to grow and flourish together as partners with you and the complete Vento Maritime-Crew!
I look forward to our cooperation and to see what we can achieve together.