Background and rationale

The members of the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) operate a fleet of ocean-going research vessels to undertake scientific cruises in the oceans of the world. These research vessels represent a costly infrastructure, that should be used in an efficient and optimal way. In 2005, members recognised the need to improve information sharing on pre-planned, planned, current and past cruises to enhance awareness of opportunities, and to improve the cost-effectiveness of cruises.

A Working group was established to consider the implementation of an International Cruise Information Database and related website from the perspective of international programmes and initiatives. Many potential benefits of an integrated, on-line cruise information system were identified:

  • Helps scientists from different countries coordinate future funded research through information about research vessels of opportunity

  • Aids in retrospective ability to find data in regions of interest

  • Makes it possible for projects to conduct joint work and to fill empty berths

  • Creates capacity-building and training opportunities

  • Aid in tracking and distributing data

  • Provides information to evaluate the benefit of observations from ships as part of GOOS

  • Makes it possible for scientists and operational users from other projects to get instruments deployed and/or samples taken in hard-to-reach areas of the ocean (e.g. drifters, profiling floats, moored buoy servicing)

  • Allows cost sharing among institutions, projects, and nations

  • Enables possible intercomparisons, intercalibrations, validation among different data types (eg. CTD vs. Argo, in situ vs. remote sensing)

Early 2006, POGO members agreed with these benefits and endorsed the plan to assemble, distribute and maintain a database of future cruises, with an extension to include past cruises when possible. Accordingly, POGO invited proposals from interested parties to establish an international Cruise Information Database (CID). The proposal of a consortium consisting of BODC (UK), MARIS (NL), BSH (DE) and EurOcean (PT)) was selected. They proposed to implement the Cruise Information Database (CID) by expanding the European SeaDataNet meta databases to a global dimension and upgrading their entry and retrieval systems to support both the requirements of SeaDataNet and POGO.

As a follow-up, the basis developments and first years of operation for the POGO CID website and system were undertaken by the selected consortium, co-funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and NOAA. In the following years, the operation, maintenance and further development of the CID was and is being continued in synergy with European research projects, further developing the SeaDataNet and Eurofleets research infrastructures, and EurOcean.

SeaDataNet is a leading pan-European infrastructure for marine data management and its core partners are National Oceanographic Data Centres (NODCs) and major research institutes from 35 countries around European seas. Together with ICES, SeaDataNet partners maintain the Cruise Summary Reports (CSR) database, relying on reporting by Chiefs Scientists.

EurOcean is an independent scientific non-governmental organisation which aims at facilitating information exchange and generating value-added products in the field of marine sciences and technologies. EurOcean maintains a Directory of Research Vessels, relying on RV operators providing relevant information.

Eurofleets is a leading European infrastructure, bringing together a significant group of research vessel operators and technological partners to facilitate, by competitive calls, access to state-of-the-art research vessels, to further innovations for operation of RVs and observing equipment, and to optimise overall management and publishing of data and information as acquired during cruises. As part of Eurofleets a database is maintained for publishing information about planned cruises, which relies on RV operators providing relevant input.

All three databases have been adapted and made available, both for use in Eurofleets for European research vessels, and for POGO, incorporating also input from non-European RV and cruise operators.

For POGO CID, the focus is on Research Vessels with a length > 60 metres, certified for open ocean research. This comprises ca. 200 - 300 research vessels, operated by ca. 50 institutes worldwide. Most of these institutes are represented in POGO and/or the International Research Ship Operators (IRSO).

In summary, the POGO CID gives access to the following interrelated information modules, specifically for open ocean research vessels:

  • Research Vessel Cruise Programme database, containing planned cruises per research vessel and owner / operator

  • Research Vessel Directory database, containing characteristics of research vessels, owner / operator contact details and, if available, a link to the ship’s web page

  • Cruise Summary Report (CSR) database, containing details of completed cruises and providing a first level inventory of oceanographic measurements made and samples taken.

Currently, MARIS, BSH and EurOcean are responsible for managing the technical operation and for facilitating the maintenance of the POGO CID website and databases. The provision of new and updated information is a responsibility of the POGO members, in particular Research Vessel operators, making use of the mechanisms provided and supported by the CID managers. Furthermore, synergy and cooperation take place with JCOMMOPS.