Voluntary Observing Ships (VOS) scheme ship's identification masking scheme

The scheme for masking the identification of ship's within Voluntary Observing Ship (VOS) meteoroligical reports distributed in real-time onto the Global Telecommunication System (GTS) has been introduced to address the concerns of the ship owners and masters’ with regard to the issue of ships' call signs and position data appearing on some public website.

While masking the identification of ships from reports distributed on the GTS is not the recommended normal practice, the WMO has put in place some practices allowing Members who have ship security concerns to undertake such masking under certain conditions listed below.

The fifty-ninth WMO Executive Council (EC-59, Geneva, Switzerland, 28-30 May 2007) particularly adopted Resolution 27 (EC-59) recommending that Members, in consultation with ship owners, who wish to protect the identity of VOS, may extend the trial period for the implementation of their current callsign masking schemes as per Resolution 7 (EC-58).  

All Members implementing such a process were asked to:

  1. provide for the secure exchange of ITU callsigns and reports affected by the masking process,
  2. assist in the timely resolving of real-time monitoring and climate analysis problems, and
  3. minimize the technical implications on the Quality Monitoring of Marine Data set by the Commission for Basic System (CBS) Lead Centre.  

Resolution 27 (EC-59) also asked the Secretary-General to continue the High-Level Dialogue, involving affected Members, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Chamber of Shipping, shipping companies, and other relevant Organizations and technical commissions (e.g., JCOMM, CBS and CCl), in order to review the implementation and impact of masking.  

Canada, Japan, the United States have informed the WMO Secretariat of the technical details regarding the specific masking schemes they are currently implementing in accordance with Resolution 27 (EC-59).  The details of these schemes ara available here: Canada , Japan, USA.

Other Members, such as Australia, and European countries participating in
E-SURFMAR, have also implemented masking schemes where the ship’s callsign is replaced by a unique identification number allocated nationally and consistent with the recommendations from the Ship Observations Team (SOT). These schemes are also detailed here: Australia, E-SURFMAR.  

Following the recommendations from the fourth Session of the SOT, the JCOMM in situ Observations Programme Support Centre (JCOMMOPS) was asked to develop and implement a secured database to cross reference masked call signs (MASK) with unmasked call signs (REAL).  The conditions for accessing JCOMMOPS database of MASK / REAL call signs are detailed here.

Instructions to Members for implementing masking schemes have been proposed by the Ship Observations Team and are detailed here.



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