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Sub-Committee on Radiocommunciations and Search and Rescue (COMSAR), 14th session: 8 to 12 March 2010

March 12, 2010

Piracy warnings – Guideline on operational procedures agreed by Sub-Committee
A draft guideline on operational procedures for the promulgation of maritime safety information on acts of piracy and piracy counter-measure operations, for broadcast through the World-Wide Navigational Warning Service (WWNWS), has been agreed by the Sub-Committee on Radiocommunciations and Search and Rescue (COMSAR) at its 14th session.
 
The draft guideline, which will be submitted to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 87) in May 2010 for adoption, aims to assist naval and military authorities operating in waters off the coast of Somalia to protect ships from piracy and armed robbery attacks.
 
The draft guideline provides specific guidance for naval and military authorities involved in the gathering and interpretation of information on acts of piracy and piracy counter-measure operations, as well as providing guidance for NAVAREA or National Coordinators within the WWNWS, who are responsible for originating the broadcasts.
 
Revised performance standards for EGC equipment agreed
The Sub-Committee agreed draft revised performance standards for Enhanced Group Call (EGC) equipment, for submission to MSC 87 for adoption. They update the performance standards previously issued in 1989 (resolution A.664(16)).
 
Measures to protect the safety of persons rescued at sea
The Sub-Committee held a fruitful exchange of views on the issue of measures to protect the safety of persons rescued at sea. Interested delegations agreed to hold informal consultations aimed at devising arrangements that would adequately address the issue of persons rescued at sea being disembarked at a place of safety within a reasonable time following the rescue operation.
 
The outcome of these consultations would be reported to a future session.
  
Revised International SafetyNET Manual agreed
The Sub-Committee agreed the revised International SafetyNET Manual, for submission to the MSC for approval. The International SafetyNET Manual was first produced in 1994 with a second edition published in 2003.
 
The Manual describes the structure and operation of the International SafetyNET Service, which is an international automatic direct-printing satellite-based service for the promulgation of navigational and meteorological warnings, meteorological forecasts, search and rescue (SAR) information and other urgent safety-related messages - Maritime Safety Information (MSI) - to ships. It has been developed as a safety service of the Inmarsat C enhanced group call system to provide a simple and automated means of receiving MSI on board ships at sea.
 
The 2010 edition has been developed in close cooperation with the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
 
Review of GMDSS initiated
A scoping exercise to establish whether there is a need for a review of the elements and procedures of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) was initiated, with the aim of determining which elements of the system may need to be updated or amended. The GMDSS was introduced by means of amendments to SOLAS that were adopted in 1988 and entered into force in 1992 with a phase–in period lasting until 1999.
 
Issues identified for review include:
 
• Function - including relevance of existing functional requirements, requirements for both SOLAS and non-SOLAS vessels and whether existing sea areas should be maintained in current form;
• Regulation and administration - including capacity building, legacy issues (modernising all ships not just new build), survey and inspection, harmonization of global regulatory bodies, training and certification and impact of e-navigation;
• Existing, new and emerging technologies - including possible integration of technologies such as cell phones, Sat phones, long range identification and tracking, automatic identification of ships, selection and use of relevant technology; and
• Equipment – including performance and technical standards and carriage requirements as well as assessing how the needs of non-SOLAS vessels can be better accommodated within the GMDSS.
 
The Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group was instructed to further discuss the issues at its next meeting later in the year. Member Governments and international organizations in consultative status were also invited to submit proposals on the issue to COMSAR 15.
 
IAMSAR Manual amendments agreed
The Sub-committee agreed draft amendments to the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual, for submission to MSC 87 for approval. The amendments include references to vessel tracking systems and services, including Automatic Identification System AIS, Long-range Identification and Tracking LRIT, VMS Vessel Monitoring System and Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) which are all valuable sources of vessel position data and can be displayed to provide a surface picture, which itself can assist in the identification and location of suitable rescue vessels.
 
Further amendments add a new appendix on search planning for 121.5 MHz beacon alerts, which might be received by a high-flying aircraft. The appendix gives comprehensive guidance on methods that will help define and reduce beacon search areas, which may be very large. The amendments follow recommendations to improve SAR services in the light of lessons learned from three accidents involving passenger aircraft that ditched into the sea in 2009.
 
Circular to warn users of non-406 MHz devices agreed
The Sub-Committee agreed a draft MSC circular on commercially available locating, tracking and emergency notification devices, highlighting the limitations of non-406 MHz locating, tracking and emergency notification devices, which have become widely available.
 
The advice, to be issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and IMO, notes that these devices are not compliant with internationally accepted performance standards and operational criteria for global distress alerting and therefore may be ineffective in emergency situations. It says that States may require providers of non-406 MHz emergency notification devices and services to establish user databases and confirm they have systems in place to ensure that potential users can alert the relevant SAR authorities 24/7/365 within 5 minutes of a confirmed distress situation, with positive confirmation of receipt by the responsible SAR authority.
 
Yacht racing – Guidance on medical assistance at sea agreed
The Sub-Committee endorsed a draft MSC circular, for approval by the MSC, giving Guidance on the issue of medical assistance at sea with respect to yacht racing. The guidance contains recommendations for the organization of medical assistance for offshore racing to ensure that the telemedical assistance service (TMAS) can provide the best possible telemedical assistance together with the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in charge of a SAR operation.
 
ITU maritime radiocommunication matters
The Sub-Committee finalized the draft IMO position on matters relating to maritime services on the agenda for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radiocommunications Conference, to be held in 2012 (WRC-12).
 
The Sub-Committee also agreed liaison statements to the ITU-R Working Party 5B on Recommendation ITU-R M.493-13 Digital Selective Calling System for use in the Maritime Mobile Service and MMSI Numbering Systems for Hand Held VHF DSC Radios; the implementation of Resolution 355 (WRC-07) Content, formats and periodicity of the maritime-related service publications; and Specifications of “Man Overboard” Devices.