The 10th session of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications, Search and Rescue (NCSR 10) was held from 10 to 19 May. NCSR 10 approved guidelines on the communication of emergency and safety information on board ships to reflect the new radio installation requirements in SOLAS Chapter IV that enters into force on 1 January 2024. Draft amendments to the performance standards for electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS) were agreed to facilitate the digital exchange of ships’ route plans.
Relevant for ship owners, managers, seafarers, maritime training institutes and flag states.
- Approved revised guidelines on the radio installation requirements in SOLAS Chapter IV (COMSAR/Circ.32/Rev.2)
- Finalized draft amendments to the ECDIS performance standards to facilitate the digital exchange of route plans
Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)
The GMDSS is the worldwide system for communication of emergency and safety information. Amendments to SOLAS, its Protocol of 1988 and related IMO instruments to modernize the requirements to the GMDSS were adopted by MSC 105 (April 2022) and will enter into force on 1 January 2024.
The modernization implies generic requirements, independent of specific service providers, as well as removal of carriage requirements for obsolete systems and a re-organization of the SOLAS requirements to communication equipment. The definitions of the sea areas A1 to A4 have been amended to reflect that the geographical area of coverage may vary between various satellite service providers.
Unified Interpretations of the GMDSS requirements
NCSR 10 approved a revision of COMSAR/Circ.32/Rev.1 on Harmonization of GMDSS Requirements for Radio Installations on Board SOLAS Ships. COMSAR/Circ.32/Rev.2 provides interpretations of the radio installations requirements in SOLAS Chapter V and related IMO instruments following the amended GMDSS requirements.
COMSAR/Circ.32/Rev.2 will be submitted to MSC 107 (June 2023) for endorsement and is expected to take effect on 1 January 2024.
Delays in the availability of new GMDSS equipment
NCSR 10 considered the availability of new shipborne VHF radio installations, MF and MF/FH radio installations and Inmarsat-C ship earth stations, meeting the performance standards adopted in connection with the modernization of the GMDSS requirements.
It was perceived unrealistic for new equipment to be available for installation from 1 January 2024, and NCSR 10 therefore agreed that installation of equipment meeting the current performance standards should be permitted until 1 January 2028.
A draft MSC Circular on delays affecting the availability of new GMDSS equipment will be submitted to MSC 107 (June 2023) for approval.
Criteria for the provision of GMDSS services
NCSR 10 considered a revision of Resolution A.1001(25) on Criteria for the Provision of Mobile Satellite Communication Systems in the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), taking into account experience gained and new service providers in the GMDSS.
A Correspondence Group will progress the work until NCSR 11 in June 2024.
Maritime safety information (MSI)
In addition to providing distress alerts, the GMDSS is also used to broadcast important maritime safety information (MSI) to ships, such as navigational information and meteorological forecasts or warnings. Since 1 January 2020, both Inmarsat (UK) and Iridium (USA) have been recognized for use in the GMDSS.
NCSR 10 recalled the understanding by MSC 105 that once a mobile satellite service is recognized by the IMO, it must then be used by all information providers following its service, and it considered the dissemination and reception of search and rescue (SAR) and MSI-related information over multiple recognized mobile satellite services, including interoperability issues and broadcast monitoring.
It was noted that the IMO Enhanced Group Call Coordinating Panel has set 1 July 2023 as the target deadline for governments coordinating navigation and meteorological warning services in various geographical areas (METAREAS and NAVAREAS), as well as SAR authorities, to conclude an agreement with Iridium as part of an implementation process and determine any necessary actions to be taken after that date to address gaps in coverage.
Digital navigational data system (NAVDAT)
NCSR 10 considered the development of performance standards for the digital navigational data system (NAVDAT). NAVDAT is intended for broadcasting digital files from shore to ships, for example for providing the Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) with updated information for safe navigation.
The IMO/ITU Experts Group on Maritime Radiocommunication Matters will be invited to review the draft performance standards and advise NCSR 11 in June 2024.
Satellite navigation system receiver equipment
The requirements of SOLAS Chapter V, that all ships shall carry a receiver for a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) or a terrestrial radio navigation system, are based on the recognition of systems provided and operated by governments or organizations. Operators of GNSSs include for example GPS (USA), Galileo (EU), GLONASS (Russia), BeiDou (China) and IRNSS (India).
NCSR 10 considered a framework for combining the many performance standards for receiver equipment into one generic performance standard for satellite radionavigation systems (global or regional). The work will continue in a Correspondence Group until NCSR 11 in June 2024.
VHF Data Exchange System (VDES)
VDES is a digital communication system that operates over the very high frequency (VHF) band to provide secure and reliable data exchange, for example between ships and between ships and shore. VDES includes the Automatic Identification System (AIS) for the identification and tracking of vessels and offers additional communication capabilities.
NCSR 10 considered the development of amendments to SOLAS Chapters IV and V and performance standards and guidelines to introduce VDES into the mandatory regulatory framework.
It was agreed that a technical, regulatory and operational analysis of VDES should be undertaken, covering its communication component which includes AIS, VDES-ASM, VDES-VDE-terrestrial and VDES-VDE-satellite elements. The work will continue in a Correspondence Group until NCSR 11 in June 2024.
ECDIS performance standards
NCSR 10 agreed to draft amendments to Resolution MSC.530(106) on Performance Standards for Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) to facilitate a standardized digital ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship exchange of a ship’s route plans.
The ship-to-ship exchange of route plans was considered inappropriate since it may lead to over-reliance on other vessels’ intentions. The IMO will keep the use of route exchange under review and aim to develop operational guidance. Routes exchanged between ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship shall be considered as a basic indication of intent only and the master’s discretion must always be respected, in accordance with SOLAS Regulations V/34 and V/34-1. Route plans received should be indicated by ECDIS as for voyage planning purposes only.
The draft amendments will be submitted to MSC 108 in May 2024 for approval.
Pilot transfer arrangements
NCSR 10 considered a revision of SOLAS Regulation V/23 and associated instruments to improve the safety of pilot transfer arrangements.
It was agreed that a mandatory resolution containing performance standards should be anchored in SOLAS Regulation 23. The new mandatory instrument should replace Resolution A.1045(27), containing recommendatory measures for pilot transfer arrangements. The work will continue in a Correspondence Group until NCSR 11 in June 2024.
Maritime services in the context of e-navigation
The IMO is working on developing a globally harmonized list of maritime services offered in harbours and geographical areas, displayed electronically in a standardized manner. The intention is to facilitate worldwide harmonized communication and the exchange of information between shore and ships.
NCSR 10 incorporated new and revised maritime service descriptions in a draft revision of the descriptions of the maritime services in MSC.1/Circ.1610. The maritime service descriptions in the draft revision are defined as follows:
MS 1 – Vessel traffic service (VTS)
MS 2 – VTS navigational assistance service (NAS); Aids to Navigation service (AtoN)
MS 3 – (blank)
MS 4 – Port support service (PSS)
MS 5 – Maritime safety information (MSI) service
MS 6 – Pilotage service
MS 7 – Tug service
MS 8 – Vessel shore reporting
MS 9 – Telemedical assistance service (TMAS)
MS 10 – Maritime assistance service (MAS)
MS 11 – Nautical chart service
MS 12 – Nautical publications service
MS 13 – Ice navigation service
MS 14 – Meteorological information service
MS 15 – Real-time hydrographic and environmental information services
MS 16 – Search and rescue (SAR) serviceThe draft revision of MSC.1/Circ.1610 will be submitted to the Facilitation Committee (FAL) for consideration and to MSC 108 in May 2024 for approval.
As NCSR 10 is a Sub-Committee, all decisions concerning rules, regulations and dates are subject to further consideration and approval by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC). DNV recommends that our customers monitor the outcome of MSC 107 in June 2023 and MSC 108 in May 2024.