BSH ships on ice

Since more than 100 years, the German ice service has been committed to the safety and easiness of ship navigation. We work costumer-orientated and competent, advise costumers currently and fast, and inform about local, regional and global ice conditions of the seas. In order to do so, the German ice service provides different regional ice reports. The Amtsblatt (ice report) describes the ice situation in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea in English with a German summary. Ice conditions at the German coast are reported more detailed in the Ostseebericht and Nordseebericht, respectively, in German language.

Our ice reports and ice charts, which ease the planning and performance of ice navigation in the Baltic Sea and North Sea, can be found in the Data Section.

International cooperation

The German ice service cooperates closely with the other ice services of the world. At least once per year, the services get together in order to coordinate the collaboration and to develop product improvements.
The most important committees are here:

  • International Ice Charting Working Group (IICWG),
  • Expert Team on Sea Ice der Joint Commision of Oceanography and Marine Meteorology von WMO und IOC (ETSI)
  • Baltic Sea Ice Meeting (BSIM). 

Further information on the world’s ice services can be found at Sea-Ice Information Services in the World

Ice charts

Ice charts describe the ice situation graphically. The most important parameters are the sea-ice coverage and the sea-ice thickness. Depending on the ice chart, further information like occurrence of pressure ridges, cracks and leads or floe size is also given. Nowadays mainly satellite data (passive microwave-radiometer data, optical measurements, radar data) from different providers are used in the production of ice charts. However, in-situ observations from our voluntary ice observers should not be underestimated, since they can provide information which yet cannot be observed by satellites.

In the past, and to a greater or lesser extent still today, ice information is displayed on paper ice charts with a fixed geographic area. The only difference is that ice charts are nowadays not really printed out but rather are used as pdf-files. However, actual ice charts nowadays also exist in digital vector file formats, for example in the S411 standard format for the usage on ECDIS units onboard ships, or on other GIS systems. Since winter 2012/2013, the German ice service at the BSH provides ice charts in this S411 format, and also converts ice charts from other ice services into this format. These ice charts can be obtained via the Ice Logistics Portal.