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Under a cooperative agreement between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), software has been created to assist Volunteer Observing Ships (VOS) in submitting marine weather reports and participating in the Automated Mutual-assistance VEssel Rescue system (AMVER). The VOS program allows ships to report marine weather to the National Weather Service (NWS) so that high seas forecasts will be as timely and accurate as possible. 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 are voluntary and are intended to aid all mariners on the high seas. All transmission costs are paid by the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA. The ship is not responsible for any transmission costs, provided messages are sent to the address specified in the user's guide.

NOAA's SEAS (Shipboard Environmental data Acquisition System) 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. In addition, a very limited number of ships are asked to collect oceanographic data. For these ships, a SEAS field representative installs the extra hardware needed and trains the crew in collecting and transmitting the data. Portions of the software needed for these observations are password protected to eliminate confusion.

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 AMVER or SEAS 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.

The AMVER/SEAS PC software was developed for use with INMARSAT C transceivers. To participate in the AMVER/SEAS program the ship must possess an INMARSAT C transmitter with a floppy drive and the ability to send messages in binary format, and a 286 (or better) IBM compatible PC.

For Information on SEAS contact: Your nearest U.S. Port Meteorological Officer or SEAS representative.

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
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