After the introduction of radio communication equipment on board ships the safety at sea was increased. In the beginning of the use of radio communication on board ships it was not well organized the way a distress call was routed to the search and rescue organizations. It was mainly based on ship to ship alerting on the assigned distress frequencies. Many times there was no reception or no action after the transmission of the distress calls. To solve this problem the GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) was introduced.

The GMDSS is an important part of the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) convention. It is an internationally agreed upon set of safety procedures, types of equipment, and communication protocols used to increase safety and make it easier to rescue distressed ships.

The GMDSS provides methods and procedures of alerting by radio communication to shore based MRCCs (Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centres), CRSs (Coast Radio Stations) and vessels in the vicinity that assistance is required. This Ship to Shore distress alerting will guarantee a quick and efficient SAR (Search And Rescue) operations. All SAR activities are organized by MRCCs and MRSCs (Maritime Rescue Sub Centres) within specified navigational sea areas normally bordering their coastlines.

The GMDSS also provides the automatic broadcast of MSI (Maritime Safety Information) to vessels at sea from CRSs.

The GMDSS defines the radio equipment carriage requirements for all SOLAS vessels at sea, dependent on the GMDSS Sea Area in which they operate.

SOLAS vessels are all cargo ships of 300 GRT and upwards and all passenger ships with some exceptions. Detailed SOLAS vessels definition may be found in ALRS Volume 5.

Non SOLAS vessels do not need to comply with GMDSS radio equipment carriage requirements, but will increasingly use it, because that causes an important increase of the safety at sea.

Some countries have incorporated GMDSS radio equipment carriage requirements into their domestic marine legislation that is valid for non SOLAS vessels under their flag. For example, in many countries, charter yachts under their flag must carry VHF radio.
Last modified: Saturday, 25 April 2020, 7:50 PM