Draft rule amendments to modernise emergency maritime communications have been agreed at IMO to enable other satellite operators to provide safety services to shipping
A key IMO sub-committee met virtually to agree amendments to SOLAS for updating the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).
The Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) met in its eighth session 19-23 April. It agreed draft amendments to chapter IV (radio communications) of SOLAS and will submit these for further approval by IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) later this year.
If MSC agrees these draft amendments to introduce different connectivity technology at its 104th session, they could formally be adopted in 2022 and enter into force 1 January 2024. NCSR has been working on GMDSS modernisation for many years, with the idea first proposed in 2012.
GMDSS provides communications between ships and shore and with search and rescue (SAR) providers. It was implemented through Inmarsat, and its geostationary orbit satellites, then adopted as part of the 1988 amendments to SOLAS. It was fully implemented by IMO in 1999.
Last year, Iridium introduced a rival GMDSS to Inmarsat’s using its low Earth orbit satellite constellation.
Part of the modernisation of GMDSS involves enabling the dissemination of maritime safety information and SAR-related information over recognised mobile satellite services.
This week, NCSR 8 also reviewed navigation systems for potential recognition by IMO. It considered the Japanese regional navigation satellite system, Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) as a future component of the World-wide Radionavigation System. Also considered were the next steps for developing generic performance standards for shipborne satellite navigation system receiver equipment.
NCSR 8 also discussed enhancing the safety of ships in polar waters, specifically fishing vessels, pleasure yachts, smaller cargo ships under 500 gt which are generally excluded from IMO’s Polar Code, which is mandatory under SOLAS.
Lastly, NCSR 8 considered revising guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance.
Satellite communications and emergency response services will be discussed during Riviera Maritime Media’s series of virtual webinars, forums, conferences and technology days in 2021 - use this link for more details and to register on the events page