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Sub-Committee on Radiocommunciations and Search and Rescue (COMSAR), 13th session: 19-23 January 2009

January 23, 2009

Revised IMO/IHO/WMO Manual on Maritime Safety Information finalized by the Sub-Committee
A draft revised edition of the Joint IMO/International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)/World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Manual on Maritime Safety Information (MSI Manual) was agreed by the Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR), for submission to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), for approval. The revision of the MSI Manual is the first critical step in the further, holistic review of all World-Wide Navigational Warning Service documentation, following the adoption of amendments to Assembly resolutions A.705 and A.706 by MSC 85 last December.
 
The maritime safety information service of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) is the internationally and nationally co-ordinated network of broadcasts containing information necessary for safe navigation, which is received in ships by equipment that automatically monitors the appropriate transmissions, displays information which is relevant to the ship and provides a print capability.
 
Navigational warnings are issued under the auspices of the IMO/IHO World-Wide Navigational Warning Service (WWNWS), and meteorological forecasts and warnings are issued under the patronage of the WMO.
 
Arctic Maritime Safety Information (MSI) Services - further work needed
The Joint IMO/IHO/WMO Correspondence Group on Arctic Maritime Safety Information Services reported on developments to date in expanding the WWNWS into Arctic waters, including testing of the Arctic NAVAREAS/METAREAS and provision of technical assistance to train the new Arctic NAVAREA Coordinators and the METAREA Issuing Services.
 
The Sub-Committee endorsed a proposed timescale which would see the live testing of the Arctic NAVAREA/METAREA operations in 2009 and 2010, with a milestone goal of "Full Operational Status" being declared at COMSAR 15 in 2011. The Correspondence Group was re-established to further the work, including the monitoring of the testing of the Arctic NAVAREAS/METAREAS.
 
ITU maritime radiocommunication matters
Liaison statements to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and CIRM on Automatic Identification Systems Search and Rescue Transmitters (AIS-SARTs); Proposed new "DSC Class H" of DSC portable radio intended primarily for distress alerting and communication; the regulatory status of AIS frequencies; and the implementation of Resolution 355 (World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC)-07), concerning the Maritime Manual, were approved for endorsement by MSC 86.
 
The preliminary draft IMO position relating to the relevant WRC-11 agenda items was further developed. With regard to the possible need for additional channels for satellite detection of AIS, and which conditions should apply, the majority of delegations were of the view that there was a need for a policy decision from the MSC first, before the matter could be further discussed by the Sub Committee.
 
The Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group was re-established to discuss common IMO/ITU areas of interest and prepare the draft IMO position paper for consideration by COMSAR 14.
 
Guidance on distress alerts agreed
Proposed amendments to the draft revised flow diagram on simplified operating guidance on initial distress calls and the development and issuance of new COMSAR circular on Guidance on distress alerts were agreed for endorsement by MSC 86.
 
AIS safety-related broadcast messages - draft circular agreed
The Sub-Committee agreed a circular on AIS safety-related messages which points out the limitations of using predefined distress text messages in distress situations. It notes that distress messages transmitted through the GMDSS system are immediately reacted upon by an MRCC, while safety-related messages transmitted through the AIS system might not be received, since the AIS system does not offer continuous listening watch of the AIS frequencies.
 
The circular recommends that AIS manufacturers and/or users should delete any pre-configured AIS safety-related messages that could be used to indicate distress.
 
IAMSAR Manual draft amendments agreed
Draft amendments to the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual were agreed for submission to MSC 86, for approval. The amendments include: in volume II, the replacement of examples of message formats in appendix B; and in volume III, the improvement of the section on "track spacing" to cover "sweep width, track spacing, and coverage".
 
Measures to protect the safety of persons rescued at sea
The Sub-Committee debated issues relating to the safety of persons rescued at sea and invited further submissions to the Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI), MSC 86 and the next COMSAR session.
 
A number of delegations referred to the large numbers of persons rescued at sea. During 2008, Spain rescued 10,375 persons; Italy rescued more than 36,000 persons; and Malta rescued 2,775.
 
The Sub-Committee noted that the Facilitation Committee, at its 35ths session had approved a circular on Principles relating to administrative procedures for disembarking persons rescued at sea (FAL.3/Circ.194).