Inmarsat plays a crucial role in maritime safety. Our satellites, ground network and mobile terminals are the mainstay of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).
We offer three satellite communications systems that provide most of the GMDSS medium and long-range communication functions as required by the IMO Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, Chapter IV. They are:
Ships with Inmarsat terminals on board that support the distress function are able to send an alert by pressing a dedicated distress (SOS) button. The alert is given the highest priority by the Inmarsat network and is automatically routed through a Land Earth Station (LES) to a Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) on shore. In addition to the distress alert, ships are able to send distress priority messages – both of which are safety functions on Inmarsat C and Mini C terminals. Inmarsat B and Fleet 77 terminals also support distress voice service.
Some ships do not need to comply with the GMDSS requirements but still need access to reliable safety communication services.
Inmarsat’s voice distress service utilises FleetBroadband (FB) to provide priority call access, interrupting all non-distress calls – either ship-to-shore or shore-to-ship – as soon as the rededicated distress button on the alarm panel is pressed.
The ship is connected to an operator at one of three Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCCs) strategically located around the globe. This service is enabled by fitting an equipment upgrade to Cobham Satcom (formerly Thrane & Thrane) Sailor FleetBroadband terminals. Other manufacturers are planning to launch the service.
In addition, urgency priority voice services that require immediate attention and assistance from MRCC or other shore-based authorities are also implemented. Urgency calls are generated by calling the specified 2-digit code from the handset and comprise the following types of calls:
Ships can also make emergency voice calls by dialling 505, a short code facility that comes as standard with all FleetBroadband terminals. With 505 emergency calling, all calls are automatically routed to the appropriate MRCC. 505 is a free service and mariners will not be charged providing the number is only used in a genuine emergency situation, such as requiring maritime assistance, medical advice, etc.
Simply dial 505 on the handset and initiate the call in the normal way as explained in the terminal’s operation manual. You will be automatically connected to an appropriate MRCC depending on your position. When connected, you will be asked to provide the following information:
Who you are (ship’s name, callsign, telephone number, etc);
Where you are (your position in latitude and longitude or a bearing and distance from a known geographical point, course, speed)
Number of people onboard
What is wrong (nature of emergency/difficulty)
Type of assistance required (medical advice, medical evacuation, etc.)
Any other information that may be valuable to MRCC to assist in the emergency situation.
Our dedicated Maritime Safety Services team continues to ensure that our public service obligations in respect of the GMDSS are carried out, not just to the letter of the law, but to the fullest possible extent using all available resources.