The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) Handbook,
produced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) defines GMDSS as
The basic concept of (GMDSS) is that search and rescue
authorities ashore, as well as shipping in the immediate vicinity of the ship
in distress, will be rapidly alerted to a distress incident so that they can
assist in a co-ordinated SAR operation with the minimum delay.
system also provides for agency and safety communications and the promulgation
of Maritime Safety Information (MSI) - navigational and meteorological warnings
and forecasts and other urgent safety information to ships.
In other words,
every ship is able, irrespective of the area in which it operates, to perform
those communication functions which are essential for the safety of the ship
itself and of other ships operating in the same area.
GMDSS sea areas
serve two purposes:
- To describe areas where GMDSS services are available
- To define the radio equipment that must be carry.
All Distress and Safety communication will be automated and
watch keeping on traditional voice and Morse code frequencies become history.
At the press of a button, a ship can send its identity, position and nature
of distress by either satellite or terrestrial communication.
It will then
be up to a shore based Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) to alert vessels in
the area to go to the aid of the casualty.
This co-ordinating role of the
RCC is a new one.
Under the SOLAS 1974 system, ships in the area were
required to monitor for distress alerts and then respond directly.
GMDSS now makes this the responsibility of the
Rescue Coordination Centre
(RCC or Maritime RCC) .
also changes the nature of Routine and Safety Radio operation.
fully automatic, enabling ship's to deal with all incoming and outgoing ship's
radio communication. It is no longer necessary to sail with a specialist radio
of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System came into force on the 1st
Under IMO legislation, all passenger vessels had to be
fitted with the necessary equipment by 1995, and all vessels over 300grt to be
GMDSS equipped by the 1st February deadline.
National administrations are
also being encouraged to provide the necessary shore based infrastructure in