26 September celebrates World Maritime Day, with the theme for 2013 “Sustainable Development:IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20”. The last century has seen a steady increase in total trade volume carried by sea, which today amounts to more than 90 per cent. With the volume of global trade to increase of one-third by 2020, it is imperative that maritime transport is developed sustainably, ensuring safety of ships and seafarers, protection of the environment, efficiency of operations, security.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has been providing a longstanding contribution to the requirements of the maritime sector in collaboration with the International Maritime Organization (IMO). These requirements lie at the origin of WMO itself as 160 years ago, in 1853, Lieutenant Matthew Fontaine Maury from the U.S. Navy prompted the organization of the First International Maritime Conference in Brussels to ensure the establishment of a uniform system of meteorological observations at sea through standard logbooks, to improve safety of navigation and facilitate international trade. Ships around the world started taking measurements at sea in a more standardized way; the first global charts of sea currents and atmospheric winds were produced, our understanding of physical oceanic processes improved, travelling by sea became safer. Fromthat seminal experience in international cooperation and exchange of data and information, in 1873the International Meteorological Organization, the precursor of WMO, was born.
Today, through its Marine Meteorology and Oceanography Programme and in collaboration with the WMO-IOC Joint Technical Commission on Oceanography and Marine Meteorology, WMO facilitates operational and research activities in support of the maritime sector. Observations from voluntary observing ships, buoys, other ocean platforms, aircraft and meteorological satellites ensure the collection and dissemination of marine meteorological data for storm warnings and the protection of life at sea. WMO Members have taken responsibility to issue warnings for the highseas and coastal waters through the World-Wide Metocean Information and Warnings Service. In collaboration with the International Hydrographic Office (IHO), WMO facilitates the use of meteorological information for hydrographic purposes and the optimization of shipping routes.
Climate change adds opportunities and challenges to the expansion of maritime transport. With the Arctic summer sea ice cover shrinking fast, the Northwest Passage is likely to become a viable commercial route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and WMO and IMO have established a special system for providing services to these Arctic areas. Another seaway connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific, the Northern Sea Route, is now a reality and tomorrow may provide a cost-effective alternative to other routes. These undertakings are highly dependent upon reliable and timely weather and climate information and this demonstrates the need for sustained oceanographic and meteorological observations in the Arctic.
WMO wishes to acknowledge the importance of sustainable maritime transport to the global economy and reaffirms its commitment to contribute to ensure safety at sea through the timely and quality provision of marine meteorological information.