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Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR) – 17th session, 21 to 25 January 2013

January 25, 2013

Guidance on revised Radio Regulations requirements agreed
A draft MSC circular on Guidance on the validity of radiocommunication equipment installed and used on ships, to remind shipowners that timely action is required to ensure that radiocommunication equipment complies with revised Radio Regulations, was agreed by the Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR) when it met for its 17th session.
The guidance notes that revised frequencies and channelling arrangements for the maritime HF and VHF bands are contained in appendices 17 and 18 to the Radio Regulations (RR) – Edition 2012, applicable from 1 January 2017, following changes made by the World Radiocommunication Conference 2012.
Whilst these changes do not affect the global maritime distress and safety system (GMDSS), they do affect the use of other frequencies that would be used by services such as port operations and vessel traffic services.
The guidance notes that radiocommunication equipment should be updated, so that following the first radio survey after 1 January 2017, it meets the revised channelling arrangements.  Replacement of operating hardware may be necessary.
Review and modernization of the GMDSS continues
The Sub Committee continued its work on the review of the GMDSS and re-established the Correspondence Group to further the work and submit a report in 2014. 
The plan for the modernization of the GMDSS envisages a fully comprehensive review of the GMDSS requirements, contained in SOLAS Chapter IV (Radiocommunications), to take place over a three-year period (2013–2015), followed by a further two-year period (2015-2017) for the GMDSS modernization plan, to be succeeded by the development of legal instruments, revision/development of relevant performance standards and an implementation period.
Under the current SOLAS chapter IV, incorporating the GMDSS requirements, all passenger ships and all cargo ships of 300 gross tonnage and upwards on international voyages are required to carry equipment designed to improve the probability of rescue following an accident, including satellite emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) and search and rescue transponders (SARTs) for the location of the ship or survival craft. Regulations in Chapter IV cover undertakings by contracting governments to provide radiocommunications services as well as ship requirements for carriage of radiocommunications equipment. The Chapter is closely linked to the Radio Regulations of the International Telecommunication Union.
IMO position for ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs) approved
The Sub-Committee approved the preliminary draft IMO position for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC-15), with a view to further developing it at the next meeting of the Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group on Maritime Radiocommunication Matters, to be held in October 2013, with a view to final approval of the IMO position by MSC 94 in December 2014.
IMO’s draft position highlights concerns relating to the need of interference-free operation of distress and safety services, as well radionavigation; the future need for spectrum allocations for the maritime mobile service, such as broadband communications when entering and leaving ports; and additional spectrum allocations for the maritime-mobile satellite service, which may be used to support future GMDSS and e-navigation requirements.
Meanwhile the Sub-Committee instructed the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)/IMO Joint Working Group on Search and Rescue to consider the matter of broadband public protection and disaster relief, in relation to IMO’s draft WRC position. 
Liaison with ITU and CIRM
The Sub Committee approved the draft liaison statement to ITU-R Working Party 5A, 5B, 5D and Joint Task Group 4-5-6-7 on "IMO's concerns in relation to the wide range of frequency bands identified by ITU-R for future assessment of the suitability for IMT" and the draft liaison statement to ITU-R WP 4A and the Comité International Radio-Maritime (CIRM) on "Matters Related to WRC-15 Agenda item 1.8".
E-navigation strategy implementation plan reviewed
The Sub-Committee reviewed aspects of the draft e-navigation strategy implementation plan related to radiocommunications and search and rescue and forwarded comments to the Correspondence Group on e-navigation, which reports to the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation (NAV 59), which is coordinating the e-navigation work. In relation to the possible use of shore-based long-range identification and tracking (LRIT) infrastructure for the exchange of e-navigation information, the Sub-Committee agreed that further detailed analysis and study of the proposal was required in order to determine if the existing IT infrastructure established for LRIT could contribute to the implementation of e-navigation.
E-navigation is the harmonized collection, integration, exchange, presentation and analysis of marine information on board and ashore by electronic means to enhance berth to berth navigation and related services for safety and security at sea and protection of the marine environment. 
Radiocommunication and SAR aspects of Polar Code reviewed
The Sub-Committee endorsed advice on radiocommunication and search and rescue related provisions for inclusion in the Polar Code, to be submitted to the Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Equipment (DE), which is coordinating the development of the Code. The Polar Code will include mandatory requirements covering both Arctic and Antarctic waters to ensure safety of life and protection of the marine environment in these sensitive and remote sea areas.
On specific matters, the Sub-Committee agreed that survival craft do not require tracking systems, but all survival craft require locating systems that will allow the responding SAR assets to find them during a distress situation.  It recommended that the Polar Operations Manual should be used to provide practical operational guidance on how to operate locating devices.
The Sub-Committee agreed that, in relation to the minimum time the equipment should continue to operate, operators of ships in polar areas should use a risk-based approach

to consider the particular circumstances of their operation and the likelihood that they may affect the time to rescue beyond the five day minimum period.
The Sub-Committee agreed that that the minimum design temperatures for all communication equipment must be appropriate for the minimum temperatures anticipated during operation,  taking into account that -30º C ambient temperature could be surpassed.
With regards to communications, the Sub-Committee noted that long-range communications for polar waters may be limited. Planned satellite systems which are not part of GMDSS, but that might serve ships operating within polar waters include: Iridium Next (United States) – low earth orbit system with global coverage to provide high speed data, internet and other maritime communications services; PCW (Canada) – high earth orbit with coverage in other than the European area of the Arctic to provide voice, internet and video conferencing services; and Cascade (Canada) – a store-and-forward communications payload with global coverage which will provide digital broadband courier services.

LRIT status update and operation of data exchange after 2013
The Sub-Committee was updated on the status of the LRIT system. Currently, 98 of 162 SOLAS Contracting Governments, including eight non metropolitan territories and two special administrative regions, were part of the LRIT system and 63 Data Centres (DCs) were operating in the system, while 11 new DCs have partially been tested or were pending to be tested; and five existing DCs were undergoing or were required to undergo additional testing to start providing services to other SOLAS Contracting Governments.
The Sub-Committee approved a draft MSC resolution on Operation of the International LRIT Data Exchange after 2013, for submission to MSC 92 for adoption. The resolution agrees that the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) should continue hosting, maintaining and operating the IDE at EMSA premises in Lisbon, Portugal, beyond 2013, until advised otherwise; and that the United States should continue hosting, maintaining and operating the disaster recovery site of the IDE at the United States Coast Guard Operations System Center (OSC), subject to their national procurement regulations, beyond 2013, until advised otherwise.
The Sub-Committee also endorsed a draft revised version of COMSAR.1/Circ.54 on Audits of LRIT Data Centres and of the International LRIT Data Exchange conducted by the LRIT Coordinator.
Guidance on AIS devices agreed
The Sub-Committee endorsed a draft Safety of Navigation (SN.1) circular providing information to seafarers on the display of AIS-SART, AIS Man Overboard (MOB) and EPIRB-AIS devices, for submission to the MSC for approval.
The  circular  notes that AIS-SARTs (AIS-search and rescue transmitters) are part of the GMDSS and have been able to be used as an alternative to radar (X-band) search and rescue radar transponders (SARTs) on SOLAS ships since 1 January 2010.  EPIRB-AIS devices are 406 MHz distress alerting devices that contain an additional AIS transmitter developed using the same AIS-SART technology, where the AIS component is used as an aid in locating that EPIRB-AIS. AIS Man Overboard (MOB) devices are now available as locating aids for persons at risk in the water. Once such a situation has been determined as being an emergency, AIS MOB devices may be used as an aid in locating that person.
However, in order to protect the integrity of the VHF data link used by AIS, AIS devices, including AIS-MOB devices, are not intended to be used to routinely locate or track people not being in an emergency situation.
Draft IAMSAR amendments agreed
The Sub-Committee endorsed draft amendments to the IAMSAR Manual volume II, including proposed amendments to the Suggested format for alert information from a commercial locating, tracking and emergency notification service provider to an RCC,  for approval by MSC 95 in 2015 and consequential inclusion in the 2016 edition of the IAMSAR Manual.
It also endorsed the holding of the 20th session of the ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group in 2013, and the 21st session of the ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group in 2014, to finalise amendments for inclusion in the 2016 edition of the IAMSAR Manual.
The Sub-Committee also endorsed a draft COMSAR circular giving guidance “on the use of the graph in figure N.14, appendix N of IAMSAR Manual, Volume II”, relating to clarification on survival times for people in the water, included in the graph. 
Updated list of publications to be held by a MRCC agreed
The Sub-Committee agreed updates to the List of IMO documents and publications which should be held by a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) (SAR.7/Circ.11), to include information on where to obtain the publications.
Updates to WWNWS and MSI information resolutions agreed
The Sub-Committee agreed updates to the  IMO/IHO World-Wide Navigational Warning Service Guidance Document (Resolution A.706(17), as amended) and to the Recommendation on  the promulgation of Maritime Safety Information (resolution A.705(17), as amended), as part of an editorial update following completion of a holistic review of all World-Wide Navigational Warning Service documentation.