Important work to update the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) is continuing in the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR), which is meeting for its 8th session (19-23 April).
The Sub-Committee is expected to agree a comprehensive set of draft amendments to chapter IV (radio communications) of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Related and consequential draft amendments to other chapters and existing instruments will also be considered.
The GMDSS was adopted as part of the 1988 amendments to SOLAS and was fully implemented in 1999. Communications between ships and shore – and search and rescue (SAR) at sea – depend on the integrated satellite and terrestrial radiocommunication system in the GMDSS. The proposal for the revision of the GMDSS was initially brought to IMO in 2009.
A scoping exercise was completed in 2012, followed by a high-level review and detailed review, with the modernization plan of the GMDSS approved in 2017. The GMDSS revision has been aimed at enabling the use of modern communication systems, while removing requirements to carry obsolete systems.
The Sub-Committee will have for consideration the report of an intersessional meeting of the Communications Working Group, which met in remote session from 7 to 13 April. Following consideration and agreement by the Sub-Committee, the set of draft amendments would be submitted to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 104), in late 2021, with a view to approval and potential formal adoption in 2022. The amendments would finally enter into force on 1 January 2024.
The Sub-Committee has a remit to review navigation systems for potential recognition by IMO. The meeting will consider the Japanese regional navigation satellite system Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), for recognition as a future component of the World-wide Radionavigation System (WWRNS). ].
The Sub-Committee will also consider the next steps for the development of generic performance standards for shipborne satellite navigation system receiver equipment.
Enhancing the safety of ships in polar waters is also on the agenda, specifically for fishing vessels, pleasure yachts, smaller cargo ships under 500 gross tons. Those are generally excluded from the Polar Code, which is mandatory under SOLAS. In this respect, the Sub-Committee will consider the report of a correspondence group with a view to continuing the work intersessionally.
Other items on the agenda include the dissemination of maritime safety information and SAR-related information over multiple GMDSS recognized mobile satellite services; and liaison with the International Telecommunicaiton Union.
The Sub-Committee will also consider the report of a correspondence group on the revision of guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance.
The Sub-Committee was opened by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and is being chaired by Mr. Ringo Lakeman (Netherlands)