Hong Kong Observatory today (November 18) announced the launch of a Liaison Group for the Shipping Community, turning a new page in Hong Kong's marine meteorological services. The liaison group comprises representatives from shipping companies, container terminal operators, the Hong Kong Pilots Association and the Marine Department.
Director of the Observatory, Dr Lee Boon-ying said, "Since the establishment of the Observatory in 1883, the provision of meteorological information for ocean-going vessels in support of safe navigation has always been one of the top priorities of the Observatory. The new liaison group will facilitate the further development of marine meteorological services provided by the Observatory, enhance communication between the shipping industry and the Observatory, and enable improved use of weather information in the marine sector to safeguard navigation safety."
Hong Kong is susceptible to the threat of tropical cyclones due to its geographic location. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Observatory introduced a "drum, ball and cone" system of symbols to warn ships in port of tropical cyclones in the South China Sea. The Observatory also compiled meteorological data for the seas near Hong Kong for use by mariners through data exchange with neighbouring cities and by examining the navigation logbooks of ocean-going vessels. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Observatory's weather services had become more timely, accurate and comprehensive. Apart from its tropical cyclone warning service, the Observatory now issues marine weather forecasts and warnings every day that contain information on winds, waves, visibility and inclement weather in the South China Sea. This service is delivered to users by NAVTEX broadcast, a special telex service for mariners. Weather forecasts and warnings for shipping are also broadcast via international maritime satellites as part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) of the International Maritime Organization, to serve ships in the South China Sea and neighbouring seas. Specialised weather information and forecasts are prepared to meet the needs of the Marine Department, pilots and container terminal operators.
On the high seas, crew members of the Observatory's Voluntary Observing Ships make onboard weather observations and transmit their reports in real time via international maritime satellites to the Observatory to support its preparation of weather forecasts and warnings. Additionally, the Observatory is one of the eight meteorological centres in the world designated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to collect marine climatological data and compile marine climatological summaries. The Observatory's area of responsibility under this scheme is the South China Sea.
Captain L.C. Chan who represented the shipping community to attend the inauguration and the first meeting of the liaison group, thanked the Observatory for its perennial contribution towards maritime safety. He said that establishment of the liaison group would enable the Observatory to continue to excel, giving new impetus to the long term development of marine meteorological services in Hong Kong.