SOLAS requirement for Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS)

Safety of life at sea is the highest concern in the shipping industry and therefore several norms and regulations have been laid down to meet the minimum level of safe operation and procedures to avoid any mishap. In spite of all the regulations, some accidents are hard to avoid. Thus, SOLAS clearly describes the minimum criteria for Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) so during a mishaps or accidents, maximum number of lives can be saved.

All the ship traveling in international seas must comply with the SOLAS chapter IV for a smooth and clear operation of distress system all over the world. Thus, following functional requirements were laid down:

Transmission of distress signal from ship to shore by at least two separate and independent methods

Every ship under GMDSS must have at least two separate communication method for ship to shore distress transmission from the following- EPIRB, Digital Selective Calling (DSC), Inmarsat C.

Receiving of distress alert from shore to ship

Every ship under GMDSS must be capable of receiving shore to ship warnings and distress alerts by either of two means- DSC and NAVTEX.

Transmission and receiving of distress alerts in between ship to ship

Every ship under GMDSS must be capable of transmitting and receiving distress signal between ship to ship by two methods – VHF channel 13 and DSC.

Transmission and receiving of search and rescue coordinating communications

Every ship under GMDSS must be capable of receiving and transmitting search and rescue coordinating communications by any of the following means- NAVTEX, HF/MF/VHF, Inmarsat.

On scene communication transmission and receiving

Every ship under GMDSS must meet the requirements to co-ordinate search and rescue and other distress communication in between vessels at the scene of incident. Normally MF/HF or VHF is used.

Transmitting and receiving signals for locating

Ship under GMDSS must be fitted with proper approved equipment for maritime distress operation and as described in SOLAS chapter V like radar etc.

Transmission and receiving of maritime safety information

Every ship under GMDSS must be capable of receiving maritime safety information through services like navigation warnings, chart correction, weather forecast and warning, distress alerts etc by means of NAVTEX and DSC

General radio communication to be transmitted and received from shore based networks

Ship under GMDSS consist of a general communication system for official, business, personal and private crew communications and can be done by means of DSC and Inmarsat.

Transmission and receiving of communication between bridge to bridge

Ship under GMDSS must have a system to communicate bridge to bridge, which is normally done at port or pilot-age by means of VHF for normal range and MF/HF or Inmarsat for longer range.

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  1. Please be alert that it can be difficult to get hold of GMDSS spares. A good place to look is here:

  2. Has DSC reception via the radar display been added , this would be the nmea DSC position information upon reception by a DSC radio on the bridge and the nmea message sent to the Arpa radar to show direction and position on the radar screen .

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