Modernization of GMDSS - Latest Amendments to GMDSS Entering Into Force from 1 Jan 2024

Modernization of GMDSS – Latest Amendments to GMDSS Entering Into Force from 1 Jan 2024

modernization of GMDSS Latest amendments to GMDSS

IMO MSC 105 adopted amendments SOLAS chapter II-1, III, IV and V, the appendix (Certificates) and the 1988 SOLAS Protocol (Certificates); through resolution MSC.496(105). The amendments aims to allow the use of modern communication systems in the GMDSS.

The amendments pertaining to the Modernization of GMDSS enter into force on 1 January 2024.

Following are the highlights regarding the amendments to SOLAS Chapter IV (Radiocommunications):

  1. References to Inmarsat have been replaced throughout with the term Recognized Mobile Satellite Service (RMSS). In addition to maritime mobile satellite services provided by INMARSAT, the IMO has recognized the maritime mobile satellite services provided by the IRIDIUM SATELLITE LLC. (Iridium Satellite System is acceptable as part of GMDSS, subject to concerned Flag state recognizing Iridium Satellite System as a mobile satellite service for use in the GMDSS.)
  2. Transmitting and receiving distress and safety communications using direct-printing telegraphy (NBDP) do not form part of the GMDSS requirement and is considered to be redundant.
  3. For sea area A1, VHF-EPIRB can no longer be accepted in lieu of satellite EPIRB. Ships operating exclusively in sea area A1 should replace VHF-EPIRB with satellite-EPIRB.
  4. The definition of “Sea Area A3” has changed. Sea Area A3 now means ‘an area, excluding sea areas A1 and A2, within the coverage of a recognised mobile satellite service (RMSS) supported by the ship earth station (SES) carried on board, in which continuous alerting is available’. For a ship certified to operate in sea area A3, the Cargo Ship Safety Radio Certificate is to indicate the recognized mobile satellite service in brackets (INMARSAT / IRIDIUM).
  5. The coverage of sea area A3 became variable by the type of RMSS SES installed on board. An RMSS-SES with lesser coverage area installed on board will determine the coverage of sea area A3 as the “Primary system” for a ship.
  6. The requirement of SART/AIS-SART and two two-way VHF radiotelephone apparatus is now forming part of SOLAS Ch-IV Reg. 7.2 and 7.3 (previously same was under SOLAS Ch-III, Life Saving Appliances and arrangements).
  7. The relevant SOLAS related certificates and Records of Equipment are included as part of the amendments. 

Further Explanations of Modernization of GMDSS

Q. What factors should ship owners and operators consider when choosing a Recognized Mobile Satellite Service Ship Earth Station (RMSS-SES), like Inmarsat or Iridium, for installation on their vessels?

A. Ship owners/operators can select RMSS-SES based on coverage areas. Each RMSS system provides different communication coverage. The selected RMSS-SES should be able to receive EGC (enhanced group call) broadcasting in the intended operational area, and consideration should be given to MSI (Maritime Safety Information) and SAR (Maritime Search and Rescue) information obtained by other onboard equipment. However, the installation of RMSS-SES (i.e. IRIDIUM in lieu of INMARSAT) is subject to flag’s policy and acceptance.

Q. With the upcoming changes, will vessels still need a NAVTEX receiver, or will having an MSI receiver (Inmarsat/Iridium) be enough to meet the requirements?

A. According the MSC.1/Circ.1645, para.4, ships should be provided with equipment appropriate for the entire voyage in which the ship is engaged, as follows:
“.1 a receiver capable of receiving international NAVTEX service broadcasts if the ship is engaged on voyages in any area in which an international NAVTEX service is provided; and
.2 if the ship is engaged in voyages in which an international NAVTEX service is not provided:
        .1 a receiver capable of receiving HF NBDP service when a ship is engaged in voyages where such service is provided;
        .2 receiver(s) capable of receiving broadcasts from an international EGC service identified (SafetyNet or International Iridium SafetyCast service) which provide(s) a service for the operating areas.“
So, depending on the operating areas and or/not if international NAVTEX service is provided.

Q. What is the scheduled date for the reissuance of SOLAS certificates for ships currently in service?

A. Unless ships are subject to modifications ( for e.g. VHF-EPIRB, NBDP in sea area A3), IMO confirmed (ref. MSC 105/20 para. 3.12) that in accordance with the provisions in paragraph 3.1 of the Guidance provided in MSC-MEPC.5/Circ.6, re-issuance of the relevant certificates and their supplements, if any, after entry into force of the amendments, would not be necessary until their expiry(unless otherwise instructed by the ship’s Flag State).

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What is the new GMDSS Equipment requirement as per Sea Areas?

GMDSS Equipment requirement 1
gmdss equipment requirement 2
Refer to circular COMSAR.1/Circ.32/Rev.2
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