New safety service for FleetBroadband

02 July 2014: Inmarsat has announced details of its forthcoming Maritime Safety Data Service (MSDS) for FleetBroadband.

Operational over the Inmarsat-4 network, including the Alphasat satellite, MSDS will deliver greater data capability than is currently available with Inmarsat C safety services – while still offering global coverage and the same reliability of over 99.9% associated with the Inmarsat network.

Setting standards

“Inmarsat has set the standard for maritime safety since its inception in 1979 and we remain the only satellite operator to gain International Maritime Organization (IMO) compliance with our legacy Inmarsat C and Fleet 77 safety services,” said Peter Blackhurst, Head of Maritime Safety Services at Inmarsat.

“The introduction of new data safety services over FleetBroadband has been one of our long term goals and the new system, together with Voice Distress, will ensure that we can continue to enhance safety communications and help save lives at sea not only for now but long into the future.

“We are currently working closely with the IMO to bring our new service to market with the aim of eventually gaining SOLAS approval for both FleetBroadband data and voice Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) services.”

ESA funding

The new MSDS initiative has been supported by European Space Agency (ESA) funding and builds on Inmarsat’s commitment to developing safety communications in-line with technological advancements.

MSDS will continue to offer all the Inmarsat C safety services such as distress alerting, priority messaging and SafetyNET safety information broadcasts, with the addition of:

  • Content-rich applications
  • Chart updates
  • Ability to co-ordinate rescue operations by email as well as voice calls
  • Telemedicine
  • Distress chat – an instantaneous chatroom function between multiple vessels and maritime rescue coordination centres
  • A new style maritime safety terminal (MST)

The additional capabilities have been developed by data software company, Eixo Digital, which will also be designing a generic maritime safety terminal (MST) in conjunction with GateHouse, a software solutions provider. A prototype is expected to be available later this year and a ready-to-market terminal planned for Q2 2015.

Safety servers

Inmarsat partner Cobham SATCOM has also been awarded a contract by ESA to develop an MST delivering MSDS functionality, which is expected to be available during 2015.

All information accessed over MSDS and Inmarsat C will now be housed on two new maritime safety servers in London and Burum, Netherlands.

The ability to capture and store data on the MSTs will enable limitless possibilities for future maritime safety services, whether used by Inmarsat or other official organisations..

Enhance capabilities

“The satellite business doesn’t stand still. Developments are going to continue to enhance capabilities month on month, let alone year on year, so we should expect further enriched safety services in the future,” he added.

“Everything comes to its life’s end and whilst the Inmarsat C service is still very competent and it will continue well into the 2020’s and beyond, despite being over 20 years old,  however we would ultimately like to see MSDS accepted as the natural successor to deliver SafetyNET.”

MSDS will build upon FleetBroadband’s two non-SOLAS voice safety services: the free 505 Emergency Calling facility, which comes as standard with FleetBroadband, and Voice Distress, which won a prestigious Safety at Sea magazine award in 2012.

The launch date for MSDS is subject to the IMO approval process for SOLAS ships but it is anticipated that non-SOLAS versions will be available well in advance. 

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