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For the standardization of best practices within our global ship data reporting fleets, the U.S. Voluntary Observing Ship Program (VOS) is migrating to TurboWin software.

TurboWin was developed at KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute) with contributions from several National Meteorological Services and endorsed by the WMO (World Meteorological Organization) and E-SURFMAR (European Surface Marine Program). Meteorological observations made on board ships and fixed sea stations are a substantial component of the World Weather Watch provided that the observation are accurate and of high quality. The fixed sea stations and VOS (Voluntary Observing Ships) are key components of the GOS (Global Observing System) and climate research. At the same time, however, it has been recognized that these observations are subject to keying errors, coding errors, calculating errors, etc. To achieve an optimal control of the quality of the observations, before they are used in real time, the quality control has to be carried out at the root, by the observers themselves. TurboWin contains observation checking routines which are applied on the observations before they are transmitted.

TurboWin is a user-friendly system with over 200 built-in quality checks. It allows the automated compilation of observations on board ships and fixed sea stations, their downloading to disk and their subsequent transmission ashore and thence to a Meteorological Center, by using Inmarsat, E-mail or other specific communication facilities. The program assists the observer with many menus, pictures, photos, forms, help pages, output options, automated calculations etc.

The Voluntary Observing Ship program encourages ships to report marine weather to the National Weather Service Gateway (NWSTG), ensuring that a continuous acquisition and dissemination of domestic and foreign meteorological and oceanographic data is ingested; insuring an uninterrupted flow and production of various forecasting models, watches, warnings…paramount to safety at sea. Unlike the land masses which are rich with data coverage, our oceans have vast areas which are data sparse and ships become an irreplaceable source for the gathering of such vital environmental data.

The AMVER system allows ships to report their intended track so that in the event of an emergency all available resources may be focused on aiding ships in distress. Both of these systems, VOS and AMVER, are voluntary and are intended to aid all mariners on the high seas. All transmission costs are paid by NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard. Other than email, the ship is not responsible for any transmission costs, provided messages are sent to the address specified in the user's guide. Email transmission costs have become so negligible that most ships regard this as the method of choice.

The Voluntary Observing Ship Program relies on volunteer observers to report weather at least four times per day at 00Z, 06Z, 12Z, and 18Z. Ships are encouraged to also submit reports at 03Z, 09Z, 15Z and 21Z.

AMVER reports allow the U. S. Coast Guard to track a vessel's position. The AMVER program relies on ships to submit four types of reports: (1) Sail Plans; (2) Position Reports; (3) Arrival Reports and (4) Deviation Reports, when necessary. The U. S. Coast Guard updates their database with the position information from these reports, which allows them to identify vessels in the vicinity of a ship in distress.

Ships may participate in either the VOS program or AMVER Program, but there are benefits to participating in both. A ship can reduce reporting requirements, since AMVER position reports are created from every weather message and automatically forwarded to the U.S. Coast Guard.

A typical voyage would require the submission of an AMVER Sail Plan before departure, submissions of weather reports four times per day and the submission of an Arrival Report upon arrival. A Deviation Report is only submitted if the ship deviates from its original plan. Ships that follow the same routes repeatedly get an additional benefit since Sail Plans can be stored in the system and recalled and modified rather than creating new ones.

To participate in the U.S. VOS program, contact your nearest U.S. Port Meteorological Officer or VOS Management at

To visit the TurboWin website:

For Information on AMVER contact:
Ben Strong 1-212-668-7762

U.S. Dept. of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service
Voluntary Observing Ship Program
    1325 East-West Highway
    Suite 312
    Silver Spring, MD 20910
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