National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory

Physical Oceanography Division

Longstanding Collaboration with Maersk Line Supports NOAA's Observational Efforts

NOAA-AOML plays a leadership role in the international effort to collect environmental data in the global ocean. As part of this effort, widely known as the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), scientists deploy oceanographic instruments such as Argo floats, expendable bathythermographs (XBTs), and surface drifters to collect information about the ocean’s currents, temperature, and salinity. The data obtained are critical for weather forecasts and climate studies.

The success of the Global Ocean Observing System is partly possible thanks to a strong partnership between NOAA and the shipping industry.
One of these partners is the Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping company. For almost 15 years, approximately 30 Maersk vessels have supported AOML’s global observational activities by providing platforms for scientific riders to deploy oceanographic instruments. Since the early 2000s, more than 12,000 XBTs have been deployed from Maersk ships. These vessels have also provided deployment opportunities for hundreds of Argo floats and surface drifters. The support of Maersk Line on XBT operations is an example of the impact this type of collaboration has on AOML's XBT network. In just the last 5 years, more than 8,000 XBTs have been deployed from the Maersk ships Visby and Vilnius which, combined, have completed 21 Atlantic XBT transects between Cape Town, South Africa, and Newark, New Jersey. The data obtained from these transects are used to investigate the variability of zonal currents in the tropical Atlantic and the subtropical gyre in the South and North Atlantic oceans. The data have also been used to write numerous articles for scientific journals on these topics. Maersk Line is, therefore, an excellent example of how private industry's voluntary contributions are improving our understanding of the ocean's currents and thermal structure, while also helping NOAA accomplish its goals.