Voluntary Observing Ships and Port Meteorological Services: Ships' weather observations provide vital information needed to identify the prevailing weather systems and are especially important for the preparation of forecasts for the sea areas and the timely preparation of warnings of hazardous weather conditions. Under the Voluntary Observing Ships' Scheme of the World Meteorological Organization, the Hong Kong Observatory started in 1949 to recruit a fleet of locally based voluntary weather observing ships. Presently a fleet of over 50 merchant ships which ply between Hong Kong and various ports of the world is maintained. They are equipped with meteorological instruments supplied by the Hong Kong Observatory. Ship officers on board make regular weather reports and send them to nearby coastal radio stations or coast earth stations for onward transmission to meteorological centres.
Port meteorological services are provided to all Hong Kong voluntary weather observing ships. When they call at Hong Kong, the Port Meteorological Officer (PMO) visits these ships, checks the instruments and advises ship officers on meteorological matters. Relevant publications are supplied. The PMO is also responsible for maintaining close liaison with shipping companies.
Weather observing ships recruited by other nations can also contact the PMO when they are in Hong Kong. Copies of ship codes for reporting weather observations at sea and various publications of the Hong Kong Observatory are supplied on request, and barometer checks can be arranged.
Beginning in 1989, annual surveys are conducted amongst masters of ships to obtain feedback on the marine meteorological services provided by the Hong Kong Observatory. Since 2009, an e-Bulletin has been published on-line to provide the latest news and development of weather services for the marine community.
Marine Climatological Summaries: Ship observations are invaluable for the study of climatic conditions in the ocean areas.
The Hong Kong Observatory is one of the eight centres in the world designated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to collect marine meteorological data and to compile marine climatological summaries. The area of responsibility of Hong Kong is the South China Sea from the Equator to 30N and from 100E to 120E.
Under the WMO Marine Climatological Summaries Scheme, weather observations recorded by Hong Kong voluntary observing ships are quality checked by the Observatory and then exchanged among members under the coordination of the Global Collecting Centres in the United Kingdom and Germany. From 1955 till now, over 2.1 million ship weather observations have been collected by the Hong Kong Observatory.