How World Ocean Council is capturing ocean data

Cruise lines and ferry operators provide important support for the World Ocean Council’s efforts to understand the ocean, weather and climate. CFR speaks with Paul Holthus to find out more

How World Ocean Council is capturing ocean data
A first mate gets a 'drifter buoy' ready for deployment, to collect abnd transmit data on surface currents, temperature and salinity

With tens of thousands of vessels roaming the seas, cruise lines and ferry operators play an important role in our understanding of the ocean.

Crucial information is captured through the World Ocean Council’s Smart Ocean-Smart Industries (SO-SI) programme, which sees ships hosting or deploying instruments to collect valuable data.

“The data contributes to describing the status, trends and variability of ocean, weather and climate; and improves the understanding, modelling, forecasting, and monitoring of ocean ecosystems and resources, as well as weather and climate patterns and trends,” says Paul Holthus, founding president and CEO of the World Ocean Council (WCO).

SO-SI is one of the WOC’s major programmes, and Holthus says the information gathered can be used in support of safe, responsible ocean economic activity and reducing the risk of disasters.

The programme builds on existing efforts by expanding the number of companies and vessels involved and increasing the geographic areas and parameters covered. It is also connected to other sectors with vessels, such as fishing, or with fixed infrastructure, like oil and gas, aquaculture, wind energy, submarine cables. “There are a number of major cruise lines that have had vessels participating in data collection in partnership with government and research institutions for quite some time,” says Holthus. “Royal Caribbean, for example, has several ships with instrumentation to collect data on a range of key ocean variables.

“For ferries, a standard instrumentation package called FerryBox was developed in Europe and is installed on the ferries of several companies operating in the Baltic, North Sea, Atlantic and Mediterranean. “Crystal Cruises responded to WOC outreach and participated in data collection during the historic transit of the Northwest Passage by the Crystal Serenity.”

There are many ways companies can participate and financial, equipment and time commitments vary with the specific situation. “For example, for the Global Drifter Program, ‘drifter buoys’ are provided at no cost for companies to deploy from moving vessels after which the buoys automatically collect and transmit data on surface currents, temperature and salinity,” says Holthus.

WOC engages scientific institutions to identify the priority data collection needs and the appropriate, cost-effective, technology to collect the data. “We then work to identify and recruit companies with vessels operating in the priority areas which are interested and capable of hosting or deploying instruments to collect the data,” says Holthus. “The WOC instigates the working relationship between the company and the scientific institution and facilitates the process to reach the point at which the technology is installed or deployed, and the data is being collected and shared.

“The information from companies that participate in data collection goes to the appropriate national and international science organisation and becomes part of public databases, depending on the type of data. Bathymetric data is submitted to the relevant national hydrographic agency, and then to the International Hydrographic Organization. Oceanographic data makes its way to the Unesco Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. Weather and climate data is managed globally by the World Metrological Organization. WOC has partnership arrangements with all the international organisations. The data from ‘ships of opportunity’ thereby contributes to the ability of governments and international organisations to support safe and responsible maritime activity by updating seabed maps, better modelling of ocean currents and conditions, improved forecasting of hurricanes, and so on.

“The mission of the WOC is to engage ocean business community leadership, collaboration and action in support of a healthy, productive global ocean and its sustainable use and stewardship. Data driven knowledge is fundamental to this.

“Cruise ships, ferries and other industry vessels or platforms can effectively collect ocean, weather and climate data in support of sustainable seas and safe, responsible industry operations.”

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Jon Ingleton
By Jon Ingleton
24 December 2020

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