The importance of marine meteorology to ensure safety at sea is showcased in a new publication on Maritime Forecasting, Meteorology and WMO: History and Evolution which traces nearly 150 years of dedicated commitment.
WMO released the document on World Maritime Day 2022 on 29 September. The publication and a new outreach video highlight the role of WMO, national meteorological services and partners such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in providing forecasts and early warnings to save lives. Both are registered activities of the UN Ocean Decade for Sustainable Development, contributing to the themes of ‘Safe Ocean’, Predicted Ocean’ and ‘Ocean Literacy.
The ocean covers some 70% of the Earth’s surface and is used to transport more than 90% of world trade and sustain the 40% of humanity that lives within 100 km of the coast. Recognizing this, the WMO community delivers a wide variety of marine services to support coastal management and safety at sea. Today, the growing impacts of climate change and more extreme weather are making marine meteorological services more critical than ever before.
This has been underlined yet again by a recent succession of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and Northwest Pacific, which have led to hazardous shipping conditions. Forecasts and warnings are essential to protect vessels, their cargo and sailors.
WMO is committed to the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS convention) through the broadcast of meteorological maritime safety information as part of the IMO Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). WMO supports the GMDSS through the IMO/WMO Worldwide Met-Ocean Information and Warning Service (WWMIWS), which coordinates the provision of marine services like shipping forecasts through 21 delineated areas of the ocean, called METAREAs.
Between 12-16 September, WMO hosted a meeting in Geneva in coordination with the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) on meteorological and navigation elements of the IMO’s Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS). The session brought together more than 70 experts. They included METAREA and NAVAREA Coordinators, along with key stakeholders including IMO, International Mobile Satellite Organization and satellite communication companies to discuss responsibilities, operational status and ways to improve the vital service of delivering maritime safety information to mariners
It was an exciting opportunity to reinvigorate the engagement across the communities, since the last in person meeting in 2018.
“International meteorological cooperation and maritime safety are one of the cornerstones of WMO’s work and were the primary reason for the establishment of the former International Meteorological Organization, the predecessor to WMO, in 1873,” WMO Deputy Secretary-General Dr Elena Manaenkova told the meeting.”We will celebrate our achievements in protecting lives with our 150th anniversary in 2023.”
The key outcomes in this meeting included:
- consideration of contingency plans and awareness of METAREA and NAVAREA
- improved understanding of roles and responsibilities, particularly towards providing services and assistance to coastal states within each Area
- working together in country, and with neighbouring ones.
- progress the Joint IMO, IHO, WMO Manual on Maritime Safety Information,
- focus on emergency response responsibilities (eg in response to volcanic hazards), especially given the multiple hazards including tsunamis that ships at sea can face on a voyage.