GRAs are coalitions of nations and/or institutions which share GOOS principles and goals, but are mostly concerned with local priorities and organized around regional seas or coastal environments. Thirteen GRAs represent different regions of the globe, emphasizing regional priorities, differing by need, resources and culture. Some GRAs emphasize data sharing or regional capacity development, while others are building out extensive observation systems with dedicated marine service goals, such as oil spill response capabilities or Typhoon forecasting.
Initially nearly all marine observation systems were justified by Nations for National purposes. GOOS has had as its major goal, the task of globally unifying national observation systems to allow national needs to drive and benefit from the added value of participating in a global system. As a measure of the GOOS success we can now say that many nations now collaborate through GRAs to build regional observation programmes that are major contributions to the global system. GRAs were introduced to integrate national needs into regional systems and to deliver the benefits of GOOS strategy, structure, and programmes at a regional and national level, and secondarily at a global level.