Iridium Works to Become Maritime Distress Services Provider
Tuesday, July 11, 2017 | Comments

Iridium Communications announced two key milestones allowing it to become the second recognized provider of Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) services. Inmarsat is the only current recognized GMDSS provider.

Iridium expects the process to be completed during 2018, with Iridium GMDSS service to begin in 2020. 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 that 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 formally began the process to become a recognized GMDSS mobile satellite service provider in April 2013, and in March 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 in June 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," 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.

"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."

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, Iridium said in a statement.

The Iridium network is a constellation of 66 low-Earth orbit (LEO), cross-linked satellites that provide low-latency satellite communications to the entire world, including the poles. The company is in the process of replacing its existing network with new satellites, known as Iridium NEXT. SpaceX is launching the next-generation constellation through a series of eight launches, with two successful launches complete. It will deliver faster speeds, higher throughputs and act as an innovation engine for Iridium partners and customers.

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