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The Marine Meteorology and Oceanography Programme working with others

From their origins in the middle of the 19th century, national Meteorological Services, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and its predecessor the International Meteorological Organization, have been vitally concerned with the provision of quality meteorological forecast and warning services in support of the safety of life and property at sea. In this context, WMO has always cooperated closely with the International Maritime Organization, to ensure that the best and most complete services are provided to meet the needs of mariners, wherever they may find themselves on the worlds oceans. Requirements for the provision of such services, as well as the role of WMO in their global coordination and regulation, are written into the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and WMO works to ensure that the provisions of SOLAS are fulfilled.

In the mid-1980s, the WMO Commission for Marine Meteorology (CMM) recognized that the new communications equipment carriage requirements under the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), then under development by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), would necessitate a substantial revision to the existing marine broadcast system for meteorological services, based on the traditional coastal radio network. In 1989 it thus embarked on the development of a new, globally coordinated, WMO marine broadcast system for the GMDSS, which would use the INMARSAT system as the broadcast medium, in conformity with GMDSS provisions, and would also be coordinated with the World Wide Navigational Warning Service operated by the International Hydrographic Organization on behalf of IMO. This development work was undertaken in close cooperation with IMO, the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and INMARSAT, and resulted in the new WMO system entering its transition phase on 1 February 1992, in conformity with GMDSS requirements. The system is now incorporated into the WMO technical regulations as part of the Manual on Marine Meteorological Services, and entirely replaced the old terrestrial system on 1 February 1999.

The implementation of the new WMO system worldwide has been very effectively and efficiently undertaken by those national Meteorological Services having accepted responsibilities under it, and by 1999 a global coverage for meteorological forecasts and warnings broadcasts was available through the SafetyNet service of INMARSAT. The sixteen WMO Metareas (identical to the Navareas of IHO), each have a national Meteorological Service which is responsible for ensuring broadcasts to these areas. In addition to the SafetyNET broadcasts, meteorological forecasts and warnings for mariners are provided in a variety of other ways, including in particular through NAVTEX for coastal and near shore areas.

Currently the ice cover in the Polar Regions is experiencing significant variations, both in mass and in spatial coverage. This change in the Polar environment encourages maritime exploitation of the area, and stimulates enhanced research in the ocean. When the existing WMO Marine Broadcast System under the GMDSS was decided upon, marine meteorological information for Maritime Safety Information (MSI) broadcast facilities were not envisaged for the Polar Regions. Subsequently, as the opening of the Northern Sea Route for international shipping increases, the gaps and the problems with availability, harmonization and standardization of appropriate marine meteorological information for MSI broadcasts, including sea ice, for SOLAS and non-SOLAS ships were expected to build up. Thus, the WMO is actively involved and plays a vital role in the coordinated initiative to expand the GMDSS into the Arctic waters and looks forward to a continuous and active collaboration with the IMO and IHO in further developing and operationally implementing the new areas in the Arctic Ocean.

Inevitably, there remain a number of relatively minor but still important questions to be resolved with the implementation and operation of the system, and a special WMO working group has been charged with resolving these, with obtaining and assessing the views of both operators and users of the system, and generally with ensuring that the system operates to the full satisfaction of all concerned. The group includes representatives of all the responsible national Meteorological Services under the WMO system, as well as observers from IMO, IHO, Inmarsat, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Association of Classification Societies Ltd. (IACS), the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (INTERCARGO), and the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO). A schedule of meteorological broadcasts for the GMDSS is maintained by WMO, regularly updated, and published in WMO operational publications. It is also promulgated to mariners in a variety of other ways, such as through the U.K. Admiralty List of Radio Signals.

While various small refinements to the system will continue to be required in the future, and WMO is always looking for feedback from users in this regard, WMO can nevertheless be proud that it is successfully maintaining its long tradition of service to the maritime community.

Moreover, ocean information is required by many different organizations for various purposes; for disaster mitigation, ensuring safety at sea, marine and offshore operations, sustainable development and exploitation of the marine environment, etc.  IMO and IHO are example of such partnership with WMO.





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