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Key Changes to GMDSS Equipment Requirements (Effective January 2024)
  • Post by: SKANReg
  • Date: 18-03-2024

Resolution MSC.496(105) adopted modifications to SOLAS Chapter IV, effective from 1st January 2024. These changes facilitate the utilization of modern GMDSS communication systems, rendering the obsolete ones outdated.

To remind, the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue,
at its ninth session (21 to 30 June 2022), taking into account the amendments to SOLAS chapter IV adopted by resolution MSC.496(105) and other related instruments emanating from the modernization of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), approved COMSAR.1/Circ.32/Rev.1 on Harmonization of GMDSS requirements for radio installations on board SOLAS ships, superseding COMSAR/Circ.32, COMSAR/Circ.17, COM/Circ.110, COM/Circ.110/Corr.1 and COM/Circ.117 as from 1 January 2024.

The key amendments include:

1. Replacement of references to “INMARSAT” with “Recognized Mobile Satellite Service” (RMSS).
2. Redefinition of Sea Area A3, now covered by a RMSS supported by a SHIP EARTH STATION (SES) providing “continuous alerting.”
3. Safety Radio Certificates for ships operating in Sea Area A3 must specify the recognized mobile satellite service (e.g., INMARSAT/IRIDIUM).
4. Elimination of the requirement for narrow band direct printing (NBDP) for GMDSS emergency/safety communications, both for transmission and reception.
5. Mandated use of SART/AIS-SART and two VHF devices, replacing the previous SOLAS Chapter III requirements.
6. Exclusion of VHF-EPIRB as a substitute for EPIRB in Sea Area A1.
7. Variability in Sea Area A3, determined by the type of RMSS SES installed, with reduced coverage specifying a specific A3 coverage for a particular ship.
8. Amendments to the Safety Radio Certificate. 

The functional requirements of the GMDSS are detailed in SOLAS regulation IV/4.1.1. 

Use of GMDSS equipment for transmitting and receiving general radiocommunications is a requirement specified in SOLAS regulation IV/ 4.1.2. Regular use of GMDSS equipment helps to develop operator competency and ensure equipment availability. If ships use other radiocommunication systems for the bulk of their business communications, they should adopt a regular programme of sending selected traffic or test messages via GMDSS equipment to ensure operator competency and equipment availability and to help reduce the incidence of false alerts.

Starting 1st January 2024, all ships, including existing ones, must comply with the amended SOLAS Chapter IV, as per IMO Circular – COMSAR.1/Circ.32/Rev.2. Non-compliant ships are required to achieve compliance at the first Safety Radio Survey after 1st January 2024.

Ships equipped with GMDSS radio installations should meet specific requirements as to maintenance methods for the radio installations. Irrespective of the methods used to ensure the availability of the functional requirements specified in SOLAS regulation IV/4.1.1, and as specified in regulation IV/15.8, a ship should not depart from any port unless and until the ship is capable of performing all distress, urgency and safety functions, as set out in regulation IV/4.1.1.