Iridium GMDSS milestones

Iridium's GMDSS services complement the game-changing capabilities offered by the Company's next-generation communications platform, Iridium Certus Iridium's GMDSS services complement the game-changing capabilities offered by the Company's next-generation communications platform, Iridium Certus

US-headquartered Iridium Communications Inc. has announced that two key milestones along the path to becoming the second recognized provider of Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) services have been reached.

During its 98th session in June, the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) adopted new performance standards for GMDSS equipment and approved amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Treaty, which pave the way for Iridium to become a recognized GMDSS service provider. The key remaining step in the approval process is an IMO resolution recognizing Iridium as a certified GMDSS mobile satellite service provider.  Iridium expects this will be completed during calendar year 2018, with Iridium GMDSS service to begin in 2020.

Iridium formally began the process to become a recognized GMDSS mobile satellite service provider in April 2013, and in March of 2016 announced that the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) Subcommittee on Navigation, Communication and Search and Rescue (NCSR) demonstrated broad support to incorporate Iridium as a mobile satellite GMDSS provider. The most recent meeting of the MSC, held from June 7th to 16th, updated the performance requirements for GMDSS equipment to reflect the new, enhanced capabilities mobile satellite companies can offer to the service. Amendments to the SOLAS Treaty opened the door for GMDSS mobile satellite services to be provided by companies other than Inmarsat, and will for the first time in history allow mariners a choice of GMDSS mobile satellite service provider. These developments pave the way for Iridium, and other networks, to become recognized GMDSS service providers.

"We have been working collaboratively with the IMO and member states for several years. The most recent meeting rewarded the hard work with the achievement of these milestones," said Brian Pemberton, vice president and general manager, strategic planning at Iridium. "The IMO and the maritime community recognize that GMDSS needs to modernize, and additional service providers is one part of that." Pemberton continued, "Most importantly, we worked closely with the IMO to establish new standards that will bring choice and competition to this critical service area for the first time. Competition is key to ensuring that mariners are provided best-in-class communications for safety purposes, which is a must out at sea."

As the only communications company with truly global coverage, including the polar regions, the addition of Iridium as a GMDSS service provider is critical to the future of maritime safety and comes with added value for the industry. Arctic shipping routes are becoming more heavily used, including the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage, resulting in an increased need for reliable emergency communications. 

The Iridium network is a constellation of 66 low-Earth orbit (LEO), cross-linked satellites that provide reliable, low-latency satellite communications to the entire world, including the poles. 

Currently though competitor Inmarsat is the only provider of GMDSS-approved satellite communication services.

By Jake Frith

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