In relation to the future GMDSS amendments  coming into force on 1 JAN 2024 and advent of newer technologies we must understand how it is going to impact the Shipping.

Let us understand it in two ways

1. What is communication improved, Improvement and effective   communication



 (a) What has improved communication?

Wireless signals, GMDSS, satellites, undersea cables, and other advanced technology helps communication by ensuring instant messages and other forms of data to any location on the planet. It also means the user doesn't have to be physically present at specific places like the post office or mail room.

(b)What is improvement in communication?

It means giving your full attention to the person speaking, and genuinely concentrating on what they are saying—and what they are not saying. Good listeners use the techniques of clarification and reflection to confirm what the other person has said and avoid any confusion.

(c) What is effective communication?

Effective communication is the process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, opinions, knowledge, and data so that the message is received and understood with clarity and purpose. When we communicate effectively, both the sender and receiver feel satisfied  


The draft amendments will be approved in late 2021 and adopted in 2022, with a view to entering into force on 1 January 2024. It aims to allow the use of modern communication systems in the GMDSS; the requirements for outdated systems are removed. 

Topic- How will the GMDSS change after its modernization?

For more than 30 years, the GMDSS has been ensuring the safety of navigation by providing emergency communications for ships at sea. 

However, over time, any system needs to be upgraded: some of the technologies it uses are becoming obsolete, while others, more advanced, need to be introduced. 

During the last decade, the GMDSS has been in the process of modernization. 

SOLAS Chapter IV on Radio communications, with the regulations for the GMDSS, is being amended, together with related IMO instruments.

 It aims to allow the use of modern communication systems in the GMDSS; the requirements for outdated systems are removed. 


  1. The number of service providers and technologies used in the GMDSS is expanding, so more generic requirements and definitions will apply to them

The monopoly of Inmarsat as the sole GMDSS satellite operator is over. In 2020, Iridium was recognized by the IMO. China's BeiDou has also applied for recognition and may become a third operator in the coming years. 

Thus, the criteria for the provision of mobile satellite services are revised towards generalization. References to Inmarsat devices and services will be removed from the relevant documents and replaced with definitions that better reflect current realities (“recognized mobile satellite service” instead of "Inmarsat", for example).

 Explicit references to providers of Maritime Safety Information (MSI), such as NAVTEX, EGC, will be replaced by more general definitions, etc.

  1. The definition of the sea area A3 will change

Sea areas A1 and A2 will remain the same, contrary to area A3.

 In the updated SOLAS Chapter IV, sea area A3 will be defined as an area, excluding sea areas A1 and A2, within the coverage of a recognized mobile satellite service supported by a shipboard radio station, in which continuous alerting is available. Thus, the sea area A3 will vary depending on the type of mobile satellite service:

  • if Inmarsat is used, the area remains unchanged;
  • if Iridium is used, A3 will become global (merging of the areas A3 and A4);
  • if a regional satellite system is used, the area A3 will be limited to the coverage zone of this system.

There will be no redefinition of the sea area A4 (this is the remaining sea coverage outside areas A1, A2 and A3), but it will change for different mobile satellite service providers

That means that the sea area A4 will not exist in the case of a mobile satellite provider with global coverage.

  1. All the requirements for communication equipment will be described in one SOLAS chapter

     The provisions for communication equipment in SOLAS                    Chapter III (life-saving appliances and arrangements) will be      moved to Chapter IV (radio communications).

  1. Search and Rescue capabilities will be improved through the implementation of the Cospas-Sarsat MEOSAR system

The introduction of MEOSAR will take maritime security to a new level. This system will pinpoint the location of the beacon in near real-time mode with a high degree of accuracy that is not available in the current system.

  1. New performance standards for float-free EPIRBs operating on 406 MHz will be introduced

These standards, as described in MSC Resolution 471(101), aim to:

  • require GNSS with a faster update rate, which was different from the Cospas-Sarsat’s one;
  • require an Automatic Identification System (AIS) locating signal;
  • provide for a reduced 121.5 MHz duty cycle;
  • requires a flashing light, visible to the human eye and detectable by all types of night vision devices, etc.

The related circulars “Guidelines for shore-based maintenance of satellite EPIRBs” (MSC/Circ.1039) and “Guidelines on annual testing of 406 MHz satellite EPIRBs” (MSC/Circ.1040) will also be revised and updated. *** GMDSS Modernization Plan involves an extensive scope of regulatory work. 

Dozens of relevant resolutions, standards and circulars are being amended. However, the updating of maritime radio communications should not be limited to technical requirements only. 

The human factor is also important, and staff training should also be given attention 

Implication to India-Countries like India (That has restrictions to use Iridium Phones in its coastal waters)must re-evaluate their Iridium policy in lieu of the future amendments that will come into force in 2024.

                                                                                An KARMA article