Since its establishment in 1959, IMO and its Member Governments, in close co-operation with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other international organizations, notably the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) and the Cospas-Sarsat partners, have striven to improve maritime distress and safety radiocommunications, as well as general radiocommunications for operational and personal purposes.

Ship radiocommunications entered a new era on 1 February 1999 with the full implementation of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), an integrated communications system using satellite and terrestrial radiocommunication systems.    

Under the GMDSS, all passenger ships and all cargo ships over 300 gross tonnage on international voyages have to carry specified terrestrial and satellite radiocommunications equipment for sending and receiving distress alerts and maritime safety information, as well as for general communications. The regulations governing the GMDSS are contained in chapter IV of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974.

Following a comprehensive review of the GMDSS, the MSC, at its 105th session, adopted a number of resolutions to complete the work on modernization of the GMDSS and to enable the future use of modern communication systems in the GMDSS whilst removing obsolete requirements. These resolutions include amendments to SOLAS chapters II-1, III, IV and V, and the appendix (Certificates), and also contain related and consequential amendments to other existing instruments, including performance standards, guidelines and recommendations. These amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2024.