Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
From 23-25 October the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the IMO held the first joint Symposium on Extreme Maritime Weather. The theme was: Towards Safety of Life at Sea and a Sustainable Blue Economy.
This event at IMO HQ in London brought together about 200 stakeholders from shipping (including freight, passenger ferries, cruise liners), offshore industry, ports and harbours, coast guards, insurance providers and the met-ocean community – both public and private).
To improve services
It provided a key platform for WMO to identify best practices and improve services for safety and risk reduction, emergency response, sustainable shipping practices and greater collection and sharing of ship observations.
Nusrat Ghani, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department of Transport (otherwise known as the Maritime Minister) stressed the need for met-ocean and shipping communities to build dialogue on global solutions in shipping and maritime transport, especially in the changing climate.
In an opening video address, Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, hailed the symposium as timely. He said: ‘With the great majority of world trade carried by ships, the value of the historical loss of cargo due to extreme weather conditions is simply vast. Most of these tragedies could have been avoided if better information, communication and preparedness measures had been available at the time. The good news is that ocean information services are being continually developed, including early warnings and improved predictions.’
The blue economy is estimated at US$ 3-6 trillion/year, accounting for 70% of world trade, which provides livelihoods for over 6 billion people.
Accuracy and timeliness of weather forecasting over recent decades has improved, however, millions of dollars in goods and thousands of lives are still lost at sea each year due to extreme weather conditions such as high winds, large waves, fog, thunderstorms, sea ice, freezing spray and volcanic ash.
In the words of Symposium Chair, Tom Cuff, of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: ‘We must apply the gains we’ve made in science, observing, computing, and communications to bring relevant 21st century services to the maritime community. We must develop a stronger partnership with this community to improve safety of life and property at sea.’
In addition to science, participation of local mariner and coastal communities is also important, especially, in polar regions where communication bandwidth is restricted. John Parker, Environment and Climate Change Canada said: ‘Canadian Inuit communities play a critical role in the development of future weather and sea-ice products for the Arctic. By working together, we are currently examining how Inuit weather and sea-ice forecasting knowledge combined with western monitoring and modelling techniques could lead to better Arctic forecasts to meet local decision-making needs’.
Improvements in skill needed
Forecasts need more observations to improve their skill. Peter Hinchliffe (Chair of the Nautical Institute Executive Board and former Secretary General International Chamber of Shipping) emphasised that ‘only 2500 ships voluntarily provide met data. Out of a total of around 80,000 ships in international trade this is a shockingly small number and efforts must be made to increase the contribution of this vital data to improve forecasting and weather warnings’. More weather data collected by ships at sea will improve forecasts, helping the maritime industry as well as the public.
Developing country situations were addressed and it is apparent that improved end-user understanding is needed. Nelly Florida Riama of Indonesia's BMKG* added: ‘We need to understand that different users have different requirements and understanding - this is especially challenging in island countries where, for example, local fishing communities may not understand the technical terms that we use in the forecasts, which has led to misinterpretation’.
Ultimately, the Symposium has shone a spotlight on the urgent need to close the gap between the met-ocean providers and users of this information in the maritime industry. Nick Cutmore, Secretary General of the International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA) reflected: ‘There’s a need for a greater understanding and awareness of the benefits that met-ocean data can provide to the mariner on a day-to-day basis. Similarly, the met-ocean community needs greater awareness of the kinds of decisions that mariners must make.’
Highlighting global examples of extreme maritime weather, broad discussion also included views of insurance, investigation and indemnity with ocean forecasting to improve decision making by maritime sectors, digital delivery of maritime safety information, decision support in polar regions from short to longer term seasonal time scales, voyage route optimization, decision support for the offshore industry, and search and rescue.
Other key areas identified that need urgent attention are:
*Badan Meteorologi Klimatologi dan Geofiska, the Indonesian non-departmental government agency for meteorology, climatology, and geophysics.
DFDS’s newest ro-ro vessel, Humbria Seaways, commissioned in February this year, berthed at North Sea Port in mid-September. Her first port visit here was to the Mercatordok terminal in Ghent which handles high volumes of transhipment cargo.
Between Gothenburg in Sweden and North Sea Port this service is one of the most important on the North Sea for DFDS. Conversely, DFDS is a top customer for North Sea Port. With five calls each week, the Danish shipping and logistics group is one of the port’s most frequent users. DFDS’s blue and white ships have been a familiar sight on the Western Scheldt, in the lock at Terneuzen, on the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal and at Mercatordok for many years.
DFDS was particularly busy this month at the Mercatordok terminal in Ghent. In the words of Alain De Brauwer, Route Operations Manager for DFDS Seaways in Belgium: ‘We always have a lot of cargo ready for shipment and we receive large volumes from Sweden. So when a bigger ship calls, it always comes in handy.’
Humbria Seaways was briefly available to ship some extra cargo. The ship had just come out of dry dock and made a quick crossing from Gothenburg to Ghent and back before switching to another one of the shipping company’s routes. As always, there was a tight schedule.
Humbria Seaways is one of the newest Mega Ro-Ros built for DFDS in China. Vessels in this class are 237 metres loa and 33 metres wide notable for their unusually large cargo capacity with up to 6,700 line metres of cargo.
Trinity House has appointed a new Director of Navigational Requirements following the retirement of Captain Roger Barker MNM FNI on 13 September 2020.
Roger joined Trinity House in July 2005 as Navigation (Examiner) Manager after a career in commercial shipping, a subject that he remains passionate about. He was promoted to Director of Navigational Requirements (DNR) in May 2009 and was sworn in as an Elder Brother of Trinity House at the same time.
As DNR he took on a wide range of duties and responsibilities in the service of the mariner. While governing Trinity House through both the Lighthouse Board and the Corporate Board, he also sat on the Executive Committee and the Examiners’ Committee; any major decision made by Trinity House in the last decade will have benefitted from Roger’s enthusiastic and sage input.
Roger is also a keen advocate and adopter of technology, and this was readily apparent in his assessment of potential hazards to navigation such as shipwrecks and other new dangers at sea, liaising with Trinity House’s Planning Centre at all hours and consulting hydrographic surveys and charts overlaid with marine traffic analysis on his ever-present tablet.
Among other things, he also played a major part at IALA, being a leading voice on the Aids to Navigation Requirements and Management Committee, as well as being a frequent liaison with various maritime partners such as the UKHO and the MCA; he was also a Board member for the Trinity House Maritime Charity and Seafarers UK, these latter roles reflecting a lifelong passion for the wellbeing and education of mariners.
Roger will continue to be an important part of Trinity House despite retiring from his role as DNR. He will become the Nether Warden and will retain the role of Director of Deep Sea Pilotage for the next two years.
In November 2016, Roger was awarded the Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service for services to the Merchant Navy; the medal was presented by HRH The Princess Royal at a ceremony in Trinity House.