Iridium officially certified to provide GMDSS coverage

Satellite. Credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus

Iridium Communications has garnered formal authorisation to contribute to the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), after the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) issued a Letter of Compliance on 19 December 2019, verifying its operational and technical requirements. 

The GMDSS network, previously the preserve of Inmarsat, will now incorporate satellite capacity from Iridium, which includes extensive coverage of the polar regions thanks to the latter organisation’s network of satellites. 

“Since the inception of GMDSS by the IMO in 1999, a new mobile satellite system, the Iridium® network, has now completed a thorough evaluation to become a recognised mobile satellite system in the GMDSS,” said captain Moin Ahmed, director-general of IMSO. “Recognition of Iridium marks the start of a new era in GMDSS and enhances the integrity and global coverage of safety services for seafarers across the world, including in the polar regions. 

“The evaluation of Iridium took more than four years, and at various stages the company successfully demonstrated its capability to comply with the requirements for satellite communication services for maritime safety. I’m pleased to issue Iridium the Letter of Compliance that officially makes the company the second recognised mobile satellite system in the GMDSS.” 

The inclusion of Iridium will extend the GMDSS network to cover Sea Area A4 – the polar regions – as opposed to sea areas A1, A2, and A3; coverage of VHF coastal stations; coverage of at least one MF coast station and continuous digital selective calling (DSC) alert; and coverage of Inmarsat geostationary satellites, respectively. GMDSS is used for all emergency communications, including Ship Security Alert System (SSAS), Anti-Piracy Citadel Communications, and long-range identification and tracking (LRIT). 

Iridium began the process of becoming a recognised GMDSS satellite service provider in 2013, meeting with IMO MSC requirements in 2018. The company went on to sign a Public Service Agreement with IMSO to maintain regulatory oversight of Iridium’s GMDSS services. 

“This is a monumental achievement for Iridium, and one that took years of hard work and dedication,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. “The maritime industry is recognising that our network possesses the unique ability to make GMDSS an even more robust system and extend its coverage to the entire planet. We’re dedicated to keep finding innovative new ways to facilitate safer marine travel.”