For centuries, little could be done to make shipping safer, because of the unpredictability of the weather, the vast size of the ocean, and a lack of international cooperation in the open ocean.

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However, the 1912 sinking of the "unsinkable" Titanic, with more than 1,500 casualties, led to worldwide concern about safety and standards for ships at sea. This tragedy would lead to new international conventions that established safety requirements and provided more accurate and standardized weather forecasts.

Currently, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), an agency of the United Nations, provides real- or near-real-time weather forecasts and data that are transmitted around the world.  The WMO's Global Observing System depends on member countries, which use their facilities on land, at sea, and in space via satellites to forecast weather conditions.

These resources enable meteorological and other environmental observations on a worldwide basis.

As a member of WMO, NOAA's National Weather Service, through its Ocean Prediction Center, provides High Seas Forecasts for large areas of the US Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as for US coastal areas and the Great Lakes.

The Center's Unified Surface Analysis of world weather also provides data on a complex set of surface observations. These forecasts from NOAA, as well as predictions from other member countries of the WMO, are available to anyone, and, most importantly, to all ships at sea.