Who, what, why: Who still uses the Shipping Forecast?

The Shipping Forecast is still broadcast four times a day on long wave on BBC Radio 4, continuing a tradition which goes back 90 years. Does anyone still find it useful rather than just soothing?

British ears accustomed to years of the familiar rhythms of Radio 4 will know the gentle reassurance afforded by updates from Forties, Faeroes and Fair Isle. But surely today's seafarers are relying for their safety on highly connected gizmos? Banker Antony Jenkins, Tuesday's guest editor of the Today programme, asked Frank O'Neill from Dover Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

"There is no other weather format which contains all the information in one go," he says, adding that a gale warning in Dover Strait would very quickly reduce the number of vessels at sea. "You'd have to source it from various different locations and the shipping forecast terms are strictly defined, so it is as concise and clear as possible. Many use it - dog walkers to cliff and coastal users, bait-diggers and kite surfers and sea canoeing and kayakers, and anglers from beaches and dinghy sailors and of course commercial fishermen."

Fisherman David Warwick, who tweeted from his trawler this summer, adds: "When we go to sea, the range is very limited on mobile phones, so the shipping forecast is the main source of where we get our weather from. We listen to it on the radio and also the coastguard relays it. We do rely on the shipping forecast to quite an extent."

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Media captionAlan Bennett reads the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4's Today programme

But for those unable to make an appointment to listen at 0048, 0520, 1201 and 1754, Bristol-based photographer Simon Holliday has lashed together a Twitter feed using Met Office data to make an unofficial online shipping forecast experience.

"Developing Atlntc low moving rapidly NE, exp'd S Shannon 971 by 6am tomorrow. Low W Shannon 974 moving rather quickly NE, losing its id." A classic in the making.

Reporting by Giles Wilson

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