For the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), 2020 was a monumental year. In December, Iridium became the second-ever recognized GMDSS provider, breaking a decades-long monopoly and bringing much-needed choice and innovation to this market. With the launch of Iridium GMDSS, mariners finally have a choice when selecting safety communications equipment. Most significantly, for the first time in history, seafarers now have access to a truly global GMDSS solution. Iridium enables GMDSS coverage anywhere on the planet, providing mariners with peace of mind knowing they have access to this critical service regardless of their location.
When compared to the legacy GMDSS system, Iridium’s solution brings a modern, highly capable, and cost-effective option to the table. At the core of the Iridium GMDSS service is a robust network of 66 cross-linked Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites that provide low latency, high-quality, and real-time voice and data connections over the planet’s entire surface, including across oceans and polar regions. The combination of a robust network architecture and L-band spectrum, which delivers proven connectivity even in harsh sea states and weather, make Iridium GMDSS the ideal choice for critical safety communications.
The LT-3100S, Iridium’s first GMDSS terminal, delivers an unprecedented scale of economy, combining the core GMDSS elements into a single terminal, designed to be easily integrated into an existing GMDSS console. Unlike other GMDSS services, the LT-3100S integrates all three GMDSS services into a single terminal, including distress alerting, distress voice and Maritime Safety Information (MSI), also known as Iridium SafetyCastSM. In a distress situation, mariners can immediately reach a Rescue Coordination Center (RCC), regardless of their location or sea conditions. Distress voice allows vessels in difficult situations to coordinate the emergency with an RCC, ensuring an adequate response to the situation. Iridium SafetyCast delivers critical navigation and weather information directly to the Iridium GMDSS terminal onboard.
Following the Iridium GMDSS launch at the end of 2020, Iridium’s highly capable GMDSS partners Arion Communications, Applied Satellite Technology (AST), Marlink, Marsat, NSSLGlobal, Satcom Global and Speedcast have been rolling out the service on a global scale. The first commercial activation took place onboard the Norwegian fishing vessel Trygvason, with support from Iridium service provider AST and local marine services specialist Brommeland Elektronikk A/S. The large pelagic vessel operates in some of the most dangerous waterways and has had difficulties with its previous safety system in the past. The decision to install two Iridium GMDSS terminals on the Trygvason shows confidence in fully depending on Iridium and ensuring their vessel meets all Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requirements. The Trygvason will be remembered as the first commercial activation, with many more SOLAS and non-SOLAS vessel installations to follow.
Receiving GMDSS recognition for Iridium was a long endeavor, but understanding the positive impact the service would bring to maritime safety ensured that the process maintained its momentum. With the help and collaboration of regulatory and industry bodies such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO), Iridium was not only able to make history, but was able to bring lifesaving innovation to a critical facet of the maritime industry.
For more information about Iridium GMDSS, please visit www.iridium/gmdss.
By: Wouter Deknopper, Vice President and General Manager of Maritime, Iridium Communications