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Newsletter and Summary Record of 8 January 2004 Meeting


1. This summary record is provided for information and will be posted on the Task Force portion of the Coast Guard web site at (click GMDSS, then GMDSS Task Force) the summary record is also distributed to all Task Force members to serve as a Newsletter summarizing GMDSS developments. Please note a new email address for Task Force Director, Jack Fuechsel, given at the end of this report. The GMDSS Task Force met in Washington DC on 8 January 2004. The documents listed below were distributed and copies are available on request. Some are also posted on the web site:


Summary record of Task Force meeting 24 October 2003

Task Force comments to FCC on AIS Frequencies

NVIC 8-01, Change 1- Approval of Navigation Equipment for Ships

NVIC 04-03. Encl 5; Ship Security Alerting System (SSAS)

Task Force Letter to Sabella Associates on GMDSS Training Video

FCC Public Notice DA 03-3933 of 11 Dec notifying new ULS Interface

FCC GMDSS Inspection Check List

Coast Guard Rescue 21 Pamphlet


2. The Summary Record of the 24 October 2003 Task Force meeting was approved with notification of an error in paragraph 5.a. reporting activation of Canadian Sea Area A1 on the east and west coasts. Sea Area A2 has not been declared except in the Canadian Arctic.


3. The FCC report included the following highlights:


a. Ghassan Khalek introduced FCC Public Notice DA 03-3933 of 11 December announcing deployment of a new online filing interface for the Universal Licensing System (ULS). The changes were made to accommodate a recent decision to record full vessel descriptive information on station license applications. Clarifications were also made reminding applicants that an MMSI number issued by BOAT US or Sea Tow could not be used in applying for a station license as that process would automatically assign a new MMSI number. This Public Notice can be viewed on the FCC website at


b. Ghassan Khalek also distributed copies of an FCC Check List to be used in conducting GMDSS inspections on U.S. flag vessels. Since it had been compiled several years ago, Task Force members wishing to review the check list and recommend changes were invited to do so. Members who did not attend the meeting may view the check list on the website: Suggestions for updating the check list should be submitted to Ghassan Khalek ( by 13 February; the revised version of the check list will be posted on the FCC website.


c. Tim Maguire reported briefly on the status of requests for comment and rule making involving MariTEL frequency authorizations and the Coast Guard requirements for AIS frequencies. The comment periods have closed but FCC decisions have not yet been announced.


4. The Coast Guard report included the following highlights:


a. Russ Levin reported on the status of the MF coastal network which continues to suffer from a degraded performance due to inadequate antenna systems. Concern over the limited effectiveness of the watch on 2182 kHz has prompted the recent release of a Notice to Mariners warning of the degraded performance. In a similar vein, the upgrade to VHF-DSC is also awaiting the planned technical upgrade and no date for establishment of Sea Area A2 can be projected at this time.


b. LT Scott Mason of the Rescue 21 staff reported on the status of the VHF-DSC upgrade, which has encountered delays in software development. The impact on the Full Operating Capability (FOC) date is being evaluated by the project staff. Initial Operating Capability (IOC) is anticipated for May 2003 at the first sites on the eastern seaboard, Group Atlantic City and Group Eastern Shore. Captain Sawyer advised that even though different areas would become operational on differing dates, it was not planned to declare Sea Area A1 operational until all CONUS sites had been completed and FOC declared.


c. Ed Brady reported on the work of ITU Working Party 8B which had completed its work on redefining Digital Selective Calling (DSC) parameters during its Geneva meeting in November. Revisions were made to two ITU Resolutions, 493-11 that defines how DSC works and 541-10 that governs how DSC is used operationally. The changes to 493-11 have been ratified and are now effective. The changes to 541-10 are expected to be adopted without further change but because that Resolution has treaty status with the effect of law in the U.S. it may be 2006 or 2007 before it has full legal status. Current equipment is grand-fathered but manufacturers should examine the new provisions before submitting new models for type acceptance. The new versions of the Resolutions should be posted on the Coast Guard website soon.


d. Captain Scott Evans, Chief of the Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety briefed the Task Force on his scope of responsibility. His Congressional mandate has been driven by the goal of reducing casualties in boating operations. Fatalities which routinely approached 2000 per year are now down to less that 1000 per year. His office manages the Boating Safety Grants program that dispenses funds from marine fuel taxes for worthy programs proposed by non-profit organizations dedicated to boating safety. Most of that funding goes to the states to maintain their boating safety programs. In response to a question about the Hawaiian Law requiring VHF Radios or EPIRBs on boats that go more than a mile offshore, Capt Evans doubted that the Coast Guard could mandate such a provision nationally without Congressional action. He considers it more likely that selected coastal states might adopt their own version of the Hawaiian Law if deemed appropriate.


e. A new Coast Guard Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) 04-03 was recently issued dealing with many aspects of the Maritime Security Act. Copies of Enclosure (5) to NVIC 04-03 that deals with the new Ship Security Alerting System (SSAS) were distributed for information. The SSAS is unique in that it was approved by the IMO on a fast track with limited study in response to a perceived high priority need. Further, the SSAS requirements do not describe a specific piece of equipment but rather are a set of functional requirements that could be met by a variety of different equipments. For this reason and the need for early outfitting, there is a certain amount of confusion on the subject. The NVIC can be viewed on the website at The Task Force and the RTCM plan to arrange for more detailed discussion of the SSAS options at their forthcoming meetings in St. Pete Beach, Florida during May.


f. Russ Levin outlined the major issues that will be addressed at the forthcoming meeting of IMO’s COMSAR Subcommittee, February 16-20, 2004 in London. He welcomed any Task Force members who wish to be involved in the planning process for COMSAR meetings by joining the SOLAS Working Group which holds several meetings each year to prepare U.S. input papers and positions. To be placed on the membership of the Working Group, contact Russ at 202-267-1389 or


5. RTCM President, Bob Markle reported that the Annual Assembly would be held at the Tradewinds Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida May 16-21, 2004. A draft Program for the Assembly is posted on the RTCM website at The Hotel is now accepting reservations at1-800-808-9833, be sure to ask for the RTCM room block. Several exhibitors have already registered and others can still be listed in the printed program if they register by 30 January. Bob also reminded the group that RTCM had moved its office to Rosslyn. VA with good metro service and a savings in rent for a better space. The new phone number for RTCM is 703-527-2000.


6. Elaine Dickinson reported for the Recreational Vessels Task Group and noted that BOAT US had issued 13396 MMSI numbers to date. There is a continuing reluctance among recreational vessel operators to purchase station licenses at $ 200.00 to comply with an FCC rule that neither country has any plans to enforce. She thanked the FCC for clarifying the online rules to point out that those trying to obtain station licenses via the ULS could not use MMSIs assigned by BOATUS and Sea Tow. The Task Force continues to feel that the ULS should be modified to accept these already assigned MMSIs to conserve numbers and avoid the cost of reprogramming the radio with a new MMSI number. Other reports involving recreational vessels were as follows:


a. Bob Negron reported on the progress by John Sabella Associates in completing the GMDSS training videos. Numerous suggestions to modify the text had been received from those who previewed the tapes and those would be incorporated before going into final production. The Task Force had prepared a letter of endorsement of the project that can be incorporated into promotional materials.


b. Gene Danko reported on the status of a new Learning Guide on GMDSS being produced by the U.S. Power Squadrons. He handed out copies on CD and invited interested Task Force members to review the CD and make suggestions, hopefully by 13 February. Other Task Force members who did not attend the meeting are also invited to review the text by requesting an email version from Gene Danko at 860-896-1889 or The Learning Guides are for internal use within the U.S.P.S. but will also be offered for sale at a modest markup over cost. The Task Force has offered an endorsement similar to that for the video training product.


c. Applicants for Coast Guard Boating Safety grants have until 15 January 2004 to submit proposals. The BOAT US foundation is expected to renew its proposal for an interactive VHF-DSC tutorial to be offered to the public at no charge. This is another voluntary training tool for which the Task Force has stated a strong need.


7. The Training Task Group had been asked to clarify the procedure whereby graduates of Coast Guard approved courses for GMDSS Operator and GMDSS Restricted Operator could automatically qualify for those FCC Licenses based on passing the examinations using qualifying question pools which have been approved by both agencies. The successful candidate is given a Course Completion Certificate by the school that he submits to a Coast Guard Regional Examination Center which will certify that the STCW GMDSS requirements have been met. The School provides a copy of the Course Completion Certification to an FCC COLEM who normally charges a nominal processing fee to submit a Proof of Passing Certificate to the FCC Licensing office in Gettysburg which then issues the FCC license to the candidate.


8. The following are highlights of issues raised by Nino Martini’s Commercial Vessel Task Group:


a. Bo Norton of Telenor USA reported that the transition to upgraded Thrane and Thrane Inmarsat C Coast Earth Stations had been completed with a minimum of trouble shooting and that AMVER/SEAS programs and SafetyNET broadcast programs were operating normally. He noted that the new stations did not initially recognize Trimble shipboard stations but that anomaly had been successfully corrected.


b. The cover pages of Change 1 to Coast Guard NVIC 8-01 was distributed for information. The NVIC deals with approval of Navigation Equipment for SOLAS ships and can be viewed on the website at


9. Ralph Sponar, Chairman of the Service Agents and Manufacturers Task Group raised several issues which will require follow-up action as follows:


a. Ralph had reviewed a five page draft Bulletin on EPIRB Ownership and Maintenance which had been prepared for the U.S. Marine Safety Association and indicated that it seemed to be accurate and thorough. Since the Task Force earlier arranged for development of a similar three page Bulletin by the Coast Guard and NOAA entitled Monthly EPIRB Inspection Procedures, we plan to discuss the matter with the author to resolve any discrepancies between the two.


b. Ralph noted that there appears to be a serious problem that some boat operators have encountered when attempting to interface their GPS with a VHF-DSC radio. Qualified service agents rarely have a problem but individual owners who attempt the interface without qualified help can easily make errors in the hookup depending on the age of the GPS and the adequacy of instructions in the manual for the VHF Radio. He has also observed that a few of the older radios won’t accept GPS input at all. The radios most prone to interface problems seem to be those built to the RTCM SC-101 specification. Not all radios will display the position on command even if they have been correctly hooked up. Since it is very important that DSC radios be interfaced with a navigation receiver to transmit an accurate position in event of distress, the Task Force will attempt to better define the problem and issue a warning Bulletin. Similar issues of correct interface may also arise with other GMDSS radios and with AIS units.


10. The Task Force briefly reviewed the Continuing Work List but made no changes.


11. The Task Force agreed to meet next on Thursday morning 20 May 2004 at the Tradewinds Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida during the RTCM Annual Assembly.






8 January 2004


1. Monitor FCC continuing action to update GMDSS Rules (TF)

2. Recommend actions to reduce False alerts in GMDSS systems (TF)

3. Monitor Coast Guard Port State GMDSS inspection program (TF)

4. Monitor MSI broadcasting programs for compliance with GMDSS Standards (TF)

5. Review GMDSS Internet Web Sites and update Task Force portion of USCG site (TF)

6. Support SOLAS Working Group planning for IMO COMSAR meetings (TF)

7. Disseminate GMDSS Information Bulletins and IMO GMDSS Circulars, and Resolutions (TF)

8. Advocate Canadian coordination to extend GMDSS services and requirements to the Great Lakes (TF)

9. Assist RTCM to expand its interactive website to include GMDSS equipment requirements (TF)

10. Review GMDSS publications and make recommendations to keep the data current (TR)

11. Encourage AMVER & VOS participation to supplement GMDSS (CV)

12. Publicize availability of NAVTEX receivers without printers for all vessel categories (CV)

13. Advocate changing GMDSS rules to permit ship calling on Distress and Safety channels (CV)

14. Encourage Manufacturers to upgrade GMDSS explanations and guidance in equipment manuals (SA)

15. Recommend to FCC clarifications to their List of Approved GMDSS Equipment (SA)

16. Monitor development of guidelines for GMDSS equipment maintenance and maintainer standards (SA)

17. Recommend training programs for non-mandatory users of GMDSS systems (RV)

18. Recommend development of GMDSS handbooks and Internet and video training aids (RV)

19. Recommend Class ‘D’ VHF-DSC for voluntary vessels as superior to RTCM SC-101 format (RV)

20. Advocate suspension of FCC Station License requirement for short international voyages (RV)

21. Advocate that FCC modify ULS to accept MMSI numbers assigned by BOAT US and Sea Tow (RV)

22. Recommend voluntary use of Marine Personal Locater Beacons if EPIRBs are too costly (RV)



Key to cognizant group: (TF) Task Force

(TR) Training Task Group

(CV) Commercial Vessel Task Group

(SA) Service Agents and Manufacturers Task Group

(RV) Recreational Vessel Task Group


Please refer questions and proposals to Captain Jack Fuechsel at 703-941-1935 or


File: tfsr-38.doc