Ship Security issue

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Extract from PMO-III meeting draft report (annex VII) – Hamburg, 23-24 March 2006)
Ship security remains a concern for shipping companies and Member Countries, mainly because of the recent increase in number of ship piracy acts (more than 300 attacks every year, 30 crew killed in 2004). Publication of ship’s identification and position via web sites is regarded with great concern by shipping companies and can lead to having them to ask for their ships to be removed from the VOS fleet. This has already happened in several instances, e.g. since mid-2003, Australia lost more than 5000 ship reports because of such concerns from a fishing company, Japan lost more than 300 VOS in 2005.


Extract from PMO-III meeting draft report (annex VII) – Hamburg, 23-24 March 2006)
As a short term solution: “SHIP” can be used as a callsign although (i) this impacts on WMO publication No 47, (ii) this prohibits from relaying quality information from monitoring centres back to ship operators because identification of ship operators becomes practically impossible, and (iii) this does not address ship security concerns for those ships sailing in regions where the traffic is low.

A longer term solution arising from discussions with SOT-3, JCOMM-2, and PMO-INT-3 was now being proposed for adoption by WMO Executive Council: “WMO recommends that NMHS reclassify ship data transmitted in FM-13 SHIP format from essential data to additional data”. This would limit distribution of the data beyond NMHS and would require special agreement with third parties regarding the specific use of the data. For this proposal to succeed it will require the support of all NMSs due to the question of who owns the original data.

E-SURFMAR proposal

The E-SURFMAR Programme Manager proposed a scheme of generic call signs of which the correspondence with ship’s names and IMO numbers would be known by their individual VOS operators only. WMO publication No 47 would include all the usual metadata excepted the identifiers other than the generic call signs.

In GTS messages, VOS ships would be identified through a “call sign” coded “tttccnn”, where “ttt” would represent the VOS category, “cc” the country operating the VOS and “nn” a sequential number from 00 to ZZ (1296 possibilities). The risk to get a true ship’s call sign with this coding is close to zero.

This would have the benefit of hiding the true identity of a ship even if it would not solve the problem in low traffic areas. Other advantages would be :

  • an easier and immediate relay of quality information from monitoring centres to ship operators without any knowledge of the WMO publication no. 47;
  • the possibility to easily compute performances for categories of VOS, countries of recruitment, type of AWS, etc;
  • an assistance for the computation of E-SURFMAR compensations according to the number of reports sent onto the GTS.

E-SURFMAR started the use of this coding for the AWS stations which are funded by the programme. BATEU00, BATEU01… are used as call signs for GTS reports. ‘EU’ means EUMETNET. The Met Office also started the use of this coding for its AWS : e.g. MINUK00 for a MINOS station.