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Newsletter and Summary Record of 20 May 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. For those of you who receive this Newsletter by Email, please note that we have recently been troubleshooting apparently bad email addresses. Many of these were still good but spam filters at the receiving server may have blocked delivery. Please note that our support contractor’s new agent is Ellen Carpenter and that emailed Newsletters will come from her address: Please note also the new email address for Task Force Director, Jack Fuechsel, given at the end of this report and ask your email manager to arrange to accept email from both Ellen and Jack.


The GMDSS Task Force met in St. Pete Beach, Florida on 20 May 2004 during the RTCM Annual Assembly. 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 8 January 2004

Coast Guard Safety Alert on Loss on Inmarsat-C Safety Messages

Draft Task Force comment to FCC on NPRM

FCC GMDSS Inspection Check List

FCC Check List for Inspecting Small Passenger Vessels

Draft Issues Paper on GMDSS Modernization

Flyer for new GMDSS Video “Taking the Search Out of Search & Rescue”


2. The Summary Record of the 8 January Task Force meeting was approved.


3. The Coast Guard reports included the following items:


a. Captain Rick Hartman provided an update on the Coast Guard program to complete the coastal network guard on MF-DSC so as to enable declaration of Sea Area A2. Unfortunately, the progress on rehabilitating antennas and ground planes that has been found necessary to enable effective operation of the new MF-DSC hardware, has been slow and a completion date can not be predicted at this time. When better projections can be made, there could be a decision to work toward phased implementation dates for the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific coasts.


b. Captain Ed Thiedeman provided an update on the Coast Guard Rescue 21 Program to complete the coastal network guard on VHF-DSC so as to enable declaration of Sea Area A1. Initial coverage reports from the first operational sites have been good but there are still many anomalies to be addressed. Some problems have been experienced in getting clearance for tower locations and a number of software problems are being addressed. George Olmstead of the Canadian Coast Guard asked that the Rescue 21 schedule for the Great Lakes be coordinated with Canada with the aim of bringing Canadian VHF-DSC Stations up at the same time.


c. Mike Solosi provided an update on implementation of the Automatic Identification System (AIS). There has been considerable opposition to the AIS implementation rules for vessels based primarily on cost. This is one reason that fishing vessels are not presently required to participate. It is expected that most vessels will be able to meet the outfitting deadlines. It was noted that some standards work was ongoing to define a lower cost AIS system for smaller vessels. In this regard it was pointed out that vessels equipped with AIS will derive the maximum benefit of enhanced maneuvering safety from an installation which provides a good graphic presentation of other vessels in the vicinity. Integrating the AIS with an electronic chart and radar display appears to be the optimum solution. A low cost AIS installation for smaller vessels may provide adequate data to other vessels and monitors ashore but will not provide enhanced maneuvering safety to the smaller vessel without an adequate display. In response to questions, Mike advised that Navy ships would fit AIS but might turn it off when security conditions warranted. All VTS areas will be equipped with AIS monitors ashore by the end of December 2004 and the goal is to extend shore monitor capability to all navigable waters.


d. No presentation was available on the status of the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) but for the record, SSAS installations are mandated on SOLAS ships on a rolling schedule beginning 1 July 2004 as prescribed by SOLAS Regulation XI-2/6. Unlike other IMO requirements, SSAS is a functional requirement that can be satisfied by several different equipments as long as they meet the requirement for sending a surreptitious alert that is addressed to specified shore authorities and is not received on other ships. The Task Force understands that the following candidate systems will likely qualify as meeting SSAS functional requirements: a modified 406 EPIRB system; special addressing protocols for Inmarsat GMDSS approved systems (A, B, C, Mini-C, and Fleet 77), and likely other Non-GMDSS Inmarsat systems such as D Plus, M, Mini-M, Fleet 33, and Fleet 55 as long as the ship stays in the spot beam coverage area; HF (non-DSC) solutions such as proposed by Globe Wireless; and the Iridium satellite system. Argos has proposed to provide SSAS service but there are some unresolved issues. The regulatory regime surrounding SSAS is also unique. The FCC has determined that there is adequate existing transmitting authority for the various SSAS candidates. The Coast Guard is not planning to grant type acceptance for SSAS systems but requires that the ship’s solution be included in the Ship’s Security Plan that requires Coast Guard approval. The RTCM has recently concluded that a separate Special Committee to address SSAS issues is probably not required. The RTCM Special Committee 110 has produced a standard for a modified 406 EPIRB to serve as an SSAS installation and the other candidate systems can be utilized as presently configured.


e. Joe Hersey provided a briefing on the telecommunications recommendations resulting from the F/V ARCTIC ROSE casualty report in which high priority messages sent via Inmarsat-C failed to alert watchstanders on a nearby F/V that might have been able to provide assistance. There were several problems in communications procedures and systems on the F/V and ashore but the Coast Guard has corrected the problems which led to the priority indicator on the messages being lost, and highlighted terminal performance shortcomings which led to issuance of the recent Coast Guard Safety Alert. Briefly stated, the Safety Alert advises ships that urgent marine information and distress related messages broadcast to ships could be lost if a printer is not connected to and maintained with the Inmarsat-C terminal or if floppy drive maintenance is not regularly performed on the terminal. Additionally, certain non-GMDSS approved software (e.g. windows-based software) may freeze up if this maintenance is not performed. GMDSS approved software, which is based on DOS and is required to run on older computers no longer in production, has its own problems. Vessels using non-GMDSS versions of the Inmarsat-C terminal should carefully follow the guidance in the Safety Alert.


4. FCC representatives provided the following reports:


a. Ghassan Khalek provided an update on the Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding Part 80 of the Rules. It was noted that comments on the Further Notice are due by 7 June 2004. The Task Force draft comments were distributed at the meeting and some minor changes were made with designation of a small group of interested parties to check the final version. The final Task Force comments were filed electronically on 7 June.


b. George Dillon reported on his initiative to revise the FCC Check Lists for conducting a GMDSS Inspection and for Inspection of Small Passenger Vessels. Copies of each were distributed at the meeting but he had received very few comments by interested parties. George will post the revised check lists on the Enforcement Bureau website when completed. In the meantime, if anyone desires to submit further suggestions to George ( for changes to the checklist they can be viewed at the website: Alternatively, you can request an electronic version of either check list from George by email.


c. Tim Maguire reported on the status of the EU/US Marine Equipment Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA). Basically, the agreement is still on hold since the U.S. Department of State has not yet approved it. The agreement primarily covers lifesaving and navigation equipment. AIS is the only equipment covered by the MRA that is regulated by the FCC. However, the MRA also states that the AIS Radio Transmitter requires certification by the U.S. FCC. Therefore, after implementation of the MRA, AIS transceiver manufacturers will still need to apply to the FCC for certification in the U.S. Since the meeting, it was learned that the MRA is expected to go into effect on 1 July 2004.


d. A new issue was discussed involving renewal of station licenses for recreational vessels. Many of these vessels obtained their station licenses before the FCC authorized “Licensing by Rule” which exempted recreational vessels from the requirement to hold Radio Station Licenses if they had only VHF, EPIRBs, and Radar. The new issue arose since many of these vessels would elect not to renew their Station Licenses but would want to retain the MMSI number issued by the FCC on the expiring Station License. The solution arrived at after the meeting was to permit recreational vessels to keep the existing MMSI number provided that they register with BOAT US or Sea Tow. The re-registration is desirable since the FCC did not collect the full suite of vessel descriptive and contact information until recently. In registering with BOAT US or Sea Tow, the applicant would enter the existing MMSI number to be retained. The FCC plans to remind holders of expiring Station Licenses of the option and procedures to retain the MMSI number.


5. RADM Ed Gilbert introduced a new initiative concerning GMDSS modernization for discussion by the Task Force. He noted that many of the GMDSS components were based on 20-30 year old technology and that many of the services envisioned under GMDSS had been discontinued for various reasons. A further reason to review GMDSS modernization at this time is the scheduled ITU World Administrative Radio Conference in 2007 that has GMDSS requirements on the agenda. A joint IMO/ITU Group of Experts will be developing issues for this conference and the Task Force could help formulate U.S. input. Ed presented a draft paper that outlined recognized problems with the GMDSS. Time did not permit a detailed discussion of the various shortcomings but there was support for pursuing the initiative and an ad hoc group was appointed to further develop the issue by email. Readers of this Newsletter who want a copy of the draft paper or wish to join the ad hoc group should contact Jack Fuechsel.


6. The following are highlights of the Recreational Vessel Group agenda items:


a. Bob Negron reminded the Group that the new video “Taking the Search Out of Search & Rescue” was now available for sale in both VHS and DVD formats. For more information, call 1-800-438-9872 or visit the website


b. With regard to Boating Safety Grants, it was learned after the meeting that the BOAT US Foundation proposal to develop an interactive internet tutorial on the use of VHF-DSC has been approved. In similar fashion, The United Safe Boating Institute received a grant to update and reprint their brochure “GMDSS FOR RECREATIONAL BOATERS”.


c. Dan Lemon briefed the Group on the status of an initiative under consideration by the National Search and Rescue Committee to recommend that coastal states emulate the new Hawaiian Law that requires vessels going more than one mile offshore be equipped with a VHF radio or an EPIRB. The Coast Guard is gathering data and will explore the issue with representatives of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) before making a firm recommendation to the National SAR Committee. The Task Force has previously noted the new Hawaiian Law and agreed that adoption by other coastal states would be good for boating safety generally but has deferred to the National SAR Committee whose recommendations could be more persuasive.


d. Captain Joe Fronhoefer of Sea Tow briefed the Group on the scope of his organization’s vessel assistance program. Sea Tow’s 110 franchisees handle 80,000 to 90,000 assistance cases a year. Many of the Sea Tow vessels are equipped with VHF-DSC and Automatic Direction Finders and several High Sites ashore maintain continuous watch on the distress channels. All Sea Tow franchisees will soon be added to the GMDSS Task Force distribution list.


7. The following are highlights of the Service Agents and Manufacturers Group agenda items:


a. Ralph Sponar reported that problems with do-it-yourself interconnection of GPS receivers with DSC radios are still being reported. The Task Force will try to summarize the problems in a GMDSS Information Bulletin, Press Release, or other notice for distribution in recreational boating circles. The Coast Guard is also reviewing the problem and may decide to issue a safety alert.


b. Doug Ritter of the Equipped to Survive Foundation briefed the Group on the results of EPIRB trials conducted to assess the performance of the GPS position reporting in those versions with connected or integral GPS input. The trials, which were funded and conducted in partnership with the BOATU.S. Foundation, were scheduled because of failure to get reliable position in a series of earlier tests. The results confirmed earlier indications that the GPS position is not being reliably transmitted with the EPIRB alert in some models of the equipment that were tested. A summary of the results can be viewed on the Foundation’s website at


8. The Commercial Vessel Group agenda included a report from Inmarsat that new Design and Installation Guidelines are now available. It is important that shipboard Inmarsat terminals be installed in compliance with these guidelines for optimum performance. The new Guidelines can be downloaded from the website


9. The Training Group agenda included an update from Mike Scallan of the U.S. Power Squadrons on the GMDSS Learning Guide originally briefed by Gene Danko at an earlier meeting. The Guide has been updated and is ready for publication. It will be offered for sale outside the U.S.P.S.


10. The Task Force agreed to meet next in Washington DC on Thursday 19 August 2004. Rooms 3200-3204 in the Department of Transportation Headquarters in SW Washington have been reserved. Individuals or organizations desiring to present briefings during the August meeting should contact Jack Fuechsel.





20 May 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. Undertake a review of GMDSS concepts and make modernization recommendations (TF)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18. Develop recommendations to ensure proper interconnection of GPS receivers with DSC Radios (SA)

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

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

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

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

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

24. 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-39.doc