Voluntary Observing Ship (VOS) Scheme

The VOS Scheme is an international program comprising member countries of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) that recruit ships to take, record and transmit marine meteorological and oceanographic observations while at sea. All eight Arctic Council member governments participate in the VOS Scheme either directly, by providing ships to the program, or indirectly by providing funding and/or data.

Ships' meteorological observations are recognized as being essential for the provision of safety-related services for ships at sea, marine pollution prevention and climate change studies. Ship-based meteorological and oceanographic reports are often the only data available from data-sparse areas such as the Arctic region.

WMO has established a high-level dialogue, involving affected Members, IMO, ICS, shipping companies, relevant organizations and technical commissions, which resulted in the establishment of a new VOS identification scheme without direct ship-link (such as call-signs or IMO numbers) for non- authorized data users. This solution addresses shipowners' and masters' concerns about publication of ship identification and position data, as well as those of the JCOMM community regarding data monitoring and data quality.

Participation is encouraged by shipowners, ship operators, ship managers, masters and crews, non-governmental organizations and other parties concerned. "It is essential that the volume of data provided by ships be maximized and, as such, that the number of ships participating in JCOMM marine observation programmes be increased wherever/whenever possible," according to the WMO.

"Meteorological observations from VOS continue to make a vital contribution to marine safety and efficiency, providing real-time reports needed for weather forecasting, and historical data needed for planning and design. They contribute substantially to increasing our understanding of the atmosphere/ocean linkages, essential in addressing the issue of global warming and for the development of accurate long-range weather forecasts. They also provide vital ground truth measurements for the calibration and validation of satellite observations. These realities will remain unchanged in the foreseeable future."
VOS brochure.


In 2012 the United States offered to submit a report to PAME to educate member governments on the International Voluntary Observing Ships (VOS) Scheme and how it supports AMSA Recommendation III (A) and other PAME strategic goals.

International Voluntary Observing Ships (VOS) Scheme: US Report


Video about the United States Voluntary Observing Ship Program: