Iridium moves closer to becoming GMDSS provider

Written by Nick Blenkey
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MSO Director General, Captain Moin Ahmed (left) with Iridium Director of Maritime Safety and Security Services, Kyle Hurst

Satellite communications provider Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) is now significantly closer to providing GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) services.

It has signed a Public Services Agreement (PSA) with the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) that details the conditions for IMSO to act as regulator and maintain oversight of Iridium’s Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) services.

The signing of this agreement is a key step towards IMSO issuing Iridium a Letter of Compliance, stating that the company is ready to begin providing its GMDSS service.

The GMDSS is a safety-of-life system created by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) designed to rescue mariners in distress while at sea. It is comprised of satellite communications systems feeding distress information into a network of rescue coordination centers around the world that orchestrate related search and rescue efforts.

In May of 2018, the IMO adopted a “Statement of Recognition,” stating that the Iridium® network met the requirements needed to provide GMDSS service.

For decades, only one company was allowed to provide satellite GMDSS service.

Iridium says this has limited coverage reach, capability and choice.

With Iridium, it says, mariners will for the first time in history have a choice in equipment and service provider while also now reaching 100 percent of the world’s oceans, helping protect mariners no matter where they sail.

“Iridium is on target to complete development of its GMDSS system before the end of 2019, and our first terminal, in development by Lars Thrane, can be installed by any vessel as soon as it’s type approved,” said Bryan Hartin, executive vice president, Iridium. “However, SOLAS Convention (Safety of Life At Sea) class vessels will need to wait until 2020 for that Iridium terminal to meet its mandated GMDSS carriage requirement, which is when the needed amendments made to the SOLAS Convention take effect. All non-SOLAS class vessels can begin using the service as soon as it is available, and anyone will be able to begin use of the new terminal for general communications needs.”

Iridium’s progress towards implementing all required steps to provide GMDSS service will be reported to IMO during its Maritime Safety Committee’s meeting in London this coming June.

The first terminal planned for certification, the Lars Thrane LT-3100S, is also on schedule to be type-approved in 2019. Several additional Iridium GMDSS terminals are planned to be available in the future.

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