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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

Inmarsat gains GMDSS recommendation at IMO

Tue 06 Mar 2018 by Martyn Wingrove

Inmarsat gains GMDSS recommendation at IMO
Inmarsat is investing in new satellites for its maritime safety communications service

Inmarsat has moved a step closer to gaining IMO recognition for its FleetBroadband-based safety communications as part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).

On 23 February, the sub-committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) agreed to recommend Fleet Safety for GMDSS. This sub-committee acknowledged an International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) expert’s technical review finding that Fleet Safety surpassed the requirements of resolution A.1001(25) initially for the Middle East and Asia region.

IMSO made these findings after an intensive performance review. NCSR’s recommendations will be further discussed by IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee when it meets in May. Inmarsat anticipates that this committee will approves Fleet Safety as a recognised GMDSS service.

All vessels of 300 gt and above, and all passenger ships sailing on international voyages are required to be fitted-out with GMDSS-compliant equipment. This is used in an emergency to communicate with search and rescue co-ordination centres. GMDSS equipment also receives safety updates.

Inmarsat provides FleetBroadband to ships using L-band on four I-4 fourth generation satellites. FleetBroadband terminals are equipped with the same GMDSS functionality as the older Inmarsat C units. Around 160,000 Inmarsat C terminals are installed on ships operating worldwide and these use Inmarsat’s ageing I-3 constellation.

Inmarsat maritime president Ronald Spithout welcomed NCSR’s recommendation. “This is an important step forward for our maritime safety strategy encompassing both our current constellation of I-4 satellites and our [ordered] I-6 constellation.”

He added “Following the recommendation to include Fleet Safety in GMDSS, we can restate our commitment to both maintaining and improving the safety services we offer to the maritime industry.”

IMO is reviewing GMDSS under a wide-ranging modernisation plan. It is looking to evolve safety communications to take advantage of changing satellite infrastructure and advances in maritime software and hardware to enhance the system. This includes looking at alternative constellations from Inmarsat and reviewing an application by Iridium for GMDSS recognition.

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