Iridium formally authorized to provide GMDSS service

(MCLEAN, Va.) — Iridium Communications has announced that on Dec. 19, a letter of compliance was signed by the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO), stating it has positively verified the operational and technical requirements as requested by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for Iridium to provide Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) service. 

The letter was formally presented to Iridium CEO Matt Desch by the director general of IMSO, Capt. Moin Ahmed, during a ceremony at Iridium’s headquarters on the morning of Jan. 13. The issuance of the letter formally authorizes Iridium to now provide satellite GMDSS service, bringing truly global coverage and a choice of both network and equipment to this critical emergency service for the first time.

GMDSS is a safety of life system that helps rescue mariners in emergency situations while at sea. IMSO serves as regulator for the system, which is partially comprised of satellite networks that transmit distress information to rescue coordination centers around the world, in addition to the dissemination of navigational and meteorological data to vessels at sea.

“This is a historic moment for public safety in the maritime community globally. The addition of new providers, such as Iridium, for GMDSS services can help to create safer seas for all mariners,” said Ahmed. “Since the inception of GMDSS by the IMO in 1999, a new mobile satellite system, the Iridium network, has now completed a thorough evaluation to become a recognized mobile satellite system in the GMDSS. Recognition of Iridium marks the start of a new era in GMDSS and enhances the integrity and global coverage of safety services for seafarers across the world, including in the polar regions. The evaluation of Iridium took more than four years, and at various stages the company successfully demonstrated its capability to comply with the requirements for satellite communication services for maritime safety.”

Iridium’s GMDSS service is bringing many new capabilities to the maritime industry, including extending this critical service to the growing number of ships in the waters of the Arctic and Antarctica, otherwise known as Sea Area A4. The new Iridium GMDSS terminals will combine the key three GMDSS services — distress alert, distress voice and Maritime Safety Information — all in one global compact terminal. These terminals can provide both normal and emergency communications, including Ship Security Alert System (SSAS), anti-piracy/citadel communications, and long-range identification and tracking (LRIT). All of this will be provided for all sizes of vessels, including those that are not required to be GMDSS equipped, such as smaller fishing boats and yachts, but want to take advantage of this service.

Iridium formally began the process to become a recognized GMDSS satellite service provider in 2013, with recognition of the Iridium network meeting all criteria required by the IMO’s MSC in May 2018. In April 2019, Iridium announced the signing of a public services agreement with IMSO, which details the conditions for IMSO to act as regulator and maintain oversight of Iridium’s GMDSS services. This was followed by two additional announcements, one unveiling the first ever Iridium GMDSS terminal, and the second announcing the initial seven GMDSS service providers for the Iridium network. Iridium now continues to work with its partners around the world toward rolling out its GMDSS service throughout the first half of 2020.

By Professional Mariner Staff