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Author Topic: RTCM discussion on GMDSS modernisation  (Read 15168 times)
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Glenn Dunstan
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« on: June 24, 2010, 15:30:11 »

Dear all,

Reproduced here (with permission) is a series of emails which came out of the recent US RTCM meeting.

There was an in depth discussion on modernisation.

The first is a summary of the discussions by Ed Gilbert:



15 June 2010

Hello: At last month’s RTCM Assembly, we had a modernization workshop. Results are included in the attachment for your review and comment.  We expect the final version of this document will be submitted by a government(s) to the IMO/ITU Group of Experts meeting scheduled for this September.

You are receiving this because you were at the meeting or have expressed interest in the modernization program. Please review this and send me your comments; as noted in the enclosure, there was a reasonable consensus about the issues. The paper is not an official position of anyone or any organization.

We hope to disseminate this to a wider audience in the near future; so please send me your comments by the end of this week.


My Best, Ed Gilbert
 
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Glenn Dunstan
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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2010, 15:32:24 »

Here is the text of Ed's paper:




GMDSS Task Force
Modernization Notes from 20 May 2010

Background.

1.   The MSC has added an agenda item for COMSAR to address GMDSS modernization via a scoping exercise to be completed during COMSAR 15 & 16.
2.   Preliminary work was done on the modernization issues during COMSAR 14. Based on input papers and work at the meeting, 41 issues were identified for possible consideration by the next meeting of the Joint IMO/ITU Group of Experts (GOE).
3.   For many years there has been a GMDSS Task Force in the U.S. to address issues by an open dialogue among government agencies, industry, users and others. The Task Force has an extensive e-mail distribution list, and it has benefitted from inputs from many sources. It has a close relationship the RTCM, NMEA and others. Frequently, the Task Force makes formal and informal inputs to U.S. governmental regulatory agencies.
4.   Several events of interest to the Task Force occurred at the recent RTCM Assembly May 17-18, 2010 :
a.   A number of very informative papers were presented concerning GMDSS issues; these may be obtained by contacting www.rtcm.org.
b.   A meeting of the Task Force to discuss issues; this was one of four meetings per year.
c.   A GMDSS modernization workshop that allowed a wide ranging discussion of GMDSS modernization issues
5.   Workshop participants:
a.   Reviewed the 41 modernization issues generated by COMSAR 14
b.   Reviewed information previously gathered from users
c.   Reviewed comments by ship operators which had been solicited in advance. 
d.   Concluded there continues to be a compelling need for inputs from GMDSS users and providers for COMSAR’s deliberations
e.   Discussed papers presented at the Assembly. These included     
i.   Several papers on applications of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) which is not technically a GMDSS system but which has many useful applications which can enhance GMDSS
ii.   Presentations on alternative satellite systems not presently part of GMDSS which likewise have clear potential for GMDSS augmentation
f.   Decided to create its assessment of the most important issues among those 41 identified by COMSAR 41 as an output
g.   Agreed to provide this assessment of priorities to the GOE for their consideration; please note this input will be from the workshop and have no official standing from any administration or other organization
h.   Approved a summary compilation of the 41 issues into broad affinity groups to facilitate consideration of similar issues
i.   Examined the top issues and discussed them in some detail
j.   Emphasized that incremental progress on key issues should continues with urgency while the scoping work is done and approved
6.   Annex A contains the 41 issues developed by COMSAR 14 and the affinity groups; an * indicates the workshop concluded this issue belongs in the top in priorities

WORKSHOP CONCLUSIONS

While there was not unanimous agreement, there was a broad consensus. The following are the most important issues; ranking among them was not done.

There was agreement about the critical need to make progress on the DSC issues as first in priority. Inputs about difficulties with it continue to be received, and its reputation has a deleterious effect on the overall reputation of the GMDSS. One set of suggestions about how to improve DSC is attached as Annex B.
..
The following issues which had strong support at the Workshop have been selected for recommendation to the GOE:

1.    Procedural Considerations. The scoping effort for GMDSS Modernization is too large to be pursued during regular COMSAR meetings. At COMSAR 14, the issue was assigned to an already overloaded Working Group, which recommended the GOE meeting in September be invited to consider GMDSS Modernization. That meeting is only scheduled for 3 days, which doesn’t auger well for significant action. It is recommended that the IMO schedule one or more intercessional meetings on Modernization or lacking that, commission a Correspondence Group to work by email and report to COMSAR at each session. After initial modernization adjustments, continuing development could be managed by a special COMSAR Modernization Panel functioning much as the NAVTEX and SafetyNET Panels presently operate. Workshop participants at the RTCM Assembly agreed to continue correspondence via e-mail and invited others to join.

2.   Medium Frequency Digital Selective Calling (DSC). Despite delays in upgrading the U. S. coastal watch on 2 MHz DSC and an uncertain funding forecast, there appears to have been a higher level of usage  of the 2 MHz system (without DSC) in recent years and to the extent that domestic users may be required to upgrade to DSC, a more reliable performance of the system can be expected. The principal motivation for continuing with the upgrade is to improve coverage, facilitate ship-to-ship usage at ranges greater than VHF, improve Coastal Marine Safety Information (MSI) Broadcasts, and to better support the primary users in the commercial fishing industry. It would then follow that the U.S. should support retention of 2 MHz DSC in the GMDSS system, which is also the likely position of nations without plans for a coastal watch on VHF-DSC. By advocating retention of Sea Area A2, there is an implicit recommendation for retaining all four Sea Areas. There was a strong consensus that progress should be continued in resolving DSC issues as the scoping work is done and approved. Suggestions for short term actions are contained in Annex 2.

3.   Alternative Satellite Systems. There has long been interest in including additional satellite systems in the GMDSS system. IMO’s procedures for including additional participants, Resolution A. 1001 (25), needs revisions to remove barriers and encourage others to join. The Assembly received a very interesting presentation about the Iridium System promising global coverage including the Arctic Ocean where there is expanding navigation in the region. Once systems are introduced and tested successfully in the Polar Regions, the need for MF to cover these regions would be reduced or eliminated. Subsequent to the Asssembly, Iridium announced plans for its next generation and awarded a contract to build it. Thuraya’s presentation provided exceptionally useful information about how a regional system could add much value for maritime safety, security and pollution prevention. IMO should establish performance parameters including watch standing, redundancy, and connectivity to the MRCC/RCC network. Candidate satellite systems need not be able to perform all functional requirements such as broadcasting of MSI since ships can still be required to watch NAVTEX and SafetyNET. Acceptance of alternative satellite systems would also strengthen the concept of allowing ships to utilize systems they already use for business, to meet their safety requirements. An equitable oversight cost sharing arrangement would be necessary via IMSO.

4.   Use of Four Levels of Priority in Radiocommunications. This traditional requirement originated when it was appropriate to give Morse Radio Operators aboard ships and ashore, guidance on the relative priority of messages which sometimes had to be queued for manual transmission. With the modern systems now in use and the high degree of automation, it is no longer necessary to have four levels. A single category of “Priority” for communications relating to distress and the safety and movement of shipping, with provisions of availability speed of service and service availability would be adequate . Some further work will be necessary to specify which type of Priority messages warrant being sent from shore to ship and from ship to ship preceded by an alerting signal to activate shipboard alarms.

5.   Retention of All GMDSS Functional Requirements. The review of functional requirements in the GMDSS validated most of them but, “General Communications” needs further considerations. This was intended to enable ships to utilize for safety communications those systems they used for ships business with the expectation that the operators would not need repetitive training for systems they used routinely. Unfortunately, the GMDSS VHF/MF/HF DSC services previously had a Public Correspondence component which provided voice and record general communications. Most have since been terminated for economic reasons.

6.    Use of AIS for Distress Alerting and Messaging. The expanding use of AIS for distress alerting and safety related messaging under the concept of e-Navigation calls attention to the present reluctance to endorse that same messaging capability for distress alerting. This reluctance is based on there not being a dedicated watch on the channel despite the fact that all SOLAS ships and others sail with AIS operational, as well as AIS safety related messages not being designed for the purpose of distress alerting . On the other hand, ITU Regulations make it clear that a ship may make use of any radio capability to issue a distress alert. The AIS position report message navigational status could be adapted to include a distress alerting capability.  The consensus was that it is time to agree that AIS  can be used distress alerting and messaging.

7.   Use of AIS as an Alternative to the 121.5 MHz EPIRB Homing Signal. This proposal has been considered by COMSAR because of its clearly superior performance, but it was not adopted at the last session due to concerns of some administrations that few aircraft were equipped to home on the AIS signal. This enhancement is considered too beneficial for further delay. Because the EPIRB power budget will not economically support both homing options, it is recommended that COMSAR accept the AIS homer as an alternative to the 121.5 MHz homing beacon in the same fashion that the AIS SART was accepted as an alternative to the Radar SART.

8.   Inclusion of AIS, SSAS, and LRIT in the GMDSS System. Recognizing the case for AIS as outlined in the preceding paragraphs, it should be declared a GMDSS system in addition to its other applications for safety of navigation. In the same fashion, the IMO created the Ship Security Alerting System (SSAS) and the Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) system; both have clear safety and distress applications. All three should be declared GMDSS systems and thus subject to the IMO requirements for reserve power, annual inspections, and operator training.

9.   Enhancement of Safety Communications for Survival Craft. There have been numerous suggestions that along with GMDSS Modernization there should be an overhaul of lifesaving appliances on survival craft. The voluntary radio equipment carried on large cruise ship lifeboats (especially those used as tenders) already far exceeds the IMO requirements, often including fixed mount VHF radios and radar. At the other end of the scale, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that small craft carrying passengers for hire carry VHF portables as a minimum. Updating the IMO rules for Lifesaving Appliances will, of course, need to be coordinated with the Design and Equipment Subcommittee. It is recommended that to begin the process, input papers on the issue be submitted to COMSAR to be coordinated with the D&E Subcommittee providing for fixed mount VHF radios and AIS for all self propelled lifeboats and VHF portables with integral GNSS for other survival craft. The option to include a handheld satellite phone should also be included.

10.   Modernization of GMDSS MSI Broadcasting. There is a general need to prepare for a transition to making MSI available on web sites for use by mariners. This is often referred to as “pulling” MSI as opposed to “pushing” by broadcasting. Of the currently available broadcasting systems, NAVTEX coastal broadcasts are over loaded and too slow, SafetyNET broadcasting to the high seas seems generally adequate, and HF broadcasting is done by very few countries and the extent of its usage by ships is hard to evaluate. More specifically, the NAVTEX system needs to transition to a much higher data rate to accommodate the volume of coastal warnings being broadcast. While the SafetyNET system can handle present volumes, we need to monitor implementation of broadcasting MSI by Inmarsat Fleet Broadband, which may overcome the problem of having to track specific satellites for intended reception. As means are provided to allow more data to be “pulled” more easily by shipping, it may be possible to reduce the amount of data now being “pushed” to ships by systems such as NAVTEX, Inmarsat SafetyNET and by voice broadcasts.  As a start toward “pulling” MSI by ships, originators of MSI broadcasts should ensure that all broadcast material is maintained on websites as soon as released and for at least 30 days after cancellation to facilitate training and forensic analysis. The Inmarsat representative presented a very useful paper discussing this subject at the RTCM Assembly. Workshop participants noted IMO/IHO/WMO groups are working very effectively on these issues, and a possible conclusion of the scoping task could be to just continue to follow the work of these groups. When GMDSS functional requirements are considered, interoperability among all these classes of vessels needs attention.

11.   Accommodation of e-Navigation in GMDSS Modernization. The emerging concept of e-Navigation is likely to utilize many of the same communication systems used for GMDSS, especially VHF which is already heavily loaded. In addition, the expanding e-Navigation requirements overlap in some cases such as the use of MMSI identifiers. Integration of radar and AIS displays on electronic charts invites further integration of MSI warnings as well. New requirements for cargo security monitoring and special broadcasting services make a strong case for dealing with e-Navigation requirements and GMDSS modernization together. There was a divergence of opinions at the workshop about the relationships between the two initiatives. Some stated COMSAR needs should be fully developed independently and then discussed in the context of e-Navigation initiatives rather than emphasizing a parallel effort.

12.   Recognizing the Needs of Non-SOLAS Vessels in GMDSS Modernization. While GMDSS requirements apply only to SOLAS vessels, it is customary for most administrations to apply some of the GMDSS requirements to non-SOLAS vessels under domestic regulation. This is especially important in the U.S. with the world’s largest fleet of recreational vessels and a rather modest SOLAS fleet. The IMO has recommended guidelines for fishing vessels of various sizes, but the U.S. has not followed those guidelines, and our radio safety regulations for fishing vessels are overdue for upgrading. More effective safety outfit for U.S. fishing vessels is a domestic issue, but simplification of GMDSS requirements and recognition of alternate satellite systems will provide more options for improving the safety of U.S. non-SOLAS vessels.

13.   Improving the HF Communications Option in GMDSS Modernization. Many ships use the satellite option for GMDSS communications due to is reliability and operating simplicity, but the HF option is still preferred by those ships looking for lower cost alternatives or operating partially in Sea Area A4. False alerts continue to be prevalent in the HF systems due to system complexity and poor operator training. The Inmarsat and Cospas-Sarsat systems also experience false alerts but benefit from an aggressive follow up by their system management. Unfortunately, there is no central authority to follow up on HF false alerts unless the individual countries operating HF Coast Stations adopt their own aggressive follow up program including coordinating with the flag states of offending ships. The Scoping exercise output should propose a broad plan for participating administrations to follow up on false alerts including a report to each session of COMSAR. It should consider also how commercial HF providers could become part of the GMDSS.

Conclusion. This report is being forwarded to the GMDSS Task Force with the request that it be appended to the Summary Record of the May 2010 meeting inviting members to comment on the issues. For those issues in the report for which there is general agreement, an edited report could then be transmitted to government authorities with a suggestion that they be incorporated into input papers to appropriate international fora.






Annex A

COMSAR 14’s modernization issues; note these were part of the COMSAR report as suggested issues for the IMO/ITU GOE to address. I’ve made a few purely editorial changes for clarity and plan to use this as background for our modernization discussions at the RTCM Assembly.

Suggested issues to be examined for each of the items listed below
•   What is the priority of this item compared to the other 40 in terms of making a difference out there on the water for safety and security
•   Is this within the sole purview of the IMO, or are other organizations involved—list them
•   Is this a candidate for incremental action while the scoping work is in progress
•   What documentation is already available concerning this issue—list it
•   What additional info is needed for consideration of the issue—how can it be collected
•   How should this issue be addressed during the scoping task work

Issues

1.   *The further development of the list of areas requiring closer attention to fully frame the requirement for a review of the GMDSS.
2.   The extent for the review including the shape, size and structure of this review.
3.   How the review may be implemented?
4.   The development of a work plan outlining how the review would be undertaken, its format and timescales working towards completion.
5.   Facilities required for capacity building.
6.   Whether to look at a goal-based approach to the review of SOLAS chapters IV and V and the STCW Convention’s wording instead of a prescriptive approach for regulations and the regulatory framework.
7.   *The relationships with the development of e-navigation.
8.   Which basic communication capabilities are properly part of the GMDSS and which should become a part of the developing e-navigation concept?
9.   *The need for the establishment of a correspondence group to work intersessionally between COMSAR 15 and COMSAR 16 and the Terms of Reference for that group.
10.   *The need for the current order of priorities in use for Radiocommunications.
11.   The introduction of a sort of advance notice message for circumstances where the state of this ship and/or crew was uncertain.
12.   The reduction of the four different areas of carriage requirements.
13.   The distress communications should be clearly separated from other types of communications.
14.   A requirement to allow differences for certain categories of ships.
15.   The issue of training and performance of crews onboard ships.
16.   *That over the years GMDSS had become the distress and safety system for non-SOLAS ships as well.
17.   *New developments, mainly by non-GMDSS communication providers, as well as the use of mobile phones and regional satellite systems.
18.   To have a forum in the future, to keep the system modern and up to date and whether the COMSAR Sub-Committee, which meets only once a year, would be the right body.
19.   *The need to investigate the views of seafarers on possible improvements of distress and safety communications on board ships.
20.   The development of a clearer definition of “General Communications”, which is continuing to cause some confusion in the marketplace.
21.   *AIS safety related messaging, the role of NBDP and the role of MF/HF DSC.
22.   Problems that might arise due to a lack of HF stations in the future.
23.   A continued need for a 2 MHz distress system, upon which GMDSS Sea Area A2 would be based.
24.   The false alert rate for VHF DSC, which remains unacceptably high.
25.   That voice communications remains an integral part of the GMDSS, benefitting search and rescue operations.
26.   That VHF equipment used in the sea areas A1 might embrace more modern digital technology.
27.   Measures which could or should be taken to encourage additional service providers to enter the GMDSS.
28.   The need for continuing protection for the necessary spectrum for satellite-based radio-communication service for the GMDSS.
29.   *The possible establishment of a requirement to carry a suitable hand-held satellite telephone terminal in some or all life rafts, and how its power supply could be assured.
30.   The evolution of more efficient satellite EPIRB systems and equipment designs.
31.   *The need for inclusion of the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) in the GMDSS suite of equipment.
32.   *The further evolution of Maritime Safety Information broadcast systems.
33.   The potential benefit of permitting the use of regional satellite systems in ships that trade only within a restricted area, limited to the footprint of such systems.
34.   The use of satellite equipment as an alternative in sea areas A2 currently based around MF/HFDSC.
35.   Additional spectrum requirements.
36.   Transition to a complete new numbering scheme (partly) replacing the current assignment and use of maritime mobile service identities (MMSI numbers.) (Note may require another item on MMSI evolution.)
37.   Inconsistencies between SOLAS chapters IV and V, in particular with regard to type approval, secondary equipment and maintenance arrangements. (Note-reserve power and inspections are issues as well.)
38.   The idea to change the title of chapter IV to distress communications and to transfer non-distress related communications to other chapters, as well as transferring all distress related communications to chapter IV.
39.   The need to clarify the difference between power supplies for the GMDSS equipment and other equipment on the bridge.
40.   The need for impact analysis of the cost impact, as will any amendments to the legislation and administrative that may come about.
41.   That the benefits that emerge should include enhancement of safety, security, environmental protection and general communications for the industry.



CATEGORIES

GMDSS Areas

1.   The further development of the list of areas requiring closer attention to fully frame the requirement for a review of the GMDSS. (1 & 12)

2.   A continued need for a 2 MHz distress system, upon which GMDSS Sea Area A2 would be based. (23)

3.   The use of satellite equipment as an alternative in sea areas A2 currently based around MF/HFDSC. (1)


Procedural issues for scoping work

1.   The extent for the review including the shape, size and structure of this review. (2)

2.   How the review may be implemented? (3)

3.   The development of a work plan outlining how the review would be undertaken, its format and timescales working towards completion. (4)

4.   Facilities required for capacity building. (5)

5.   Whether to look at a goal-based approach to the review or SOLAS chapters IV and V and the STCW Convention’s wording instead of a prescriptive approach for regulations and the regulatory framework. (6,  37, 38, 41)

6.   The need for the establishment of a correspondence group to work intersessionally between COMSAR 15 and COMSAR 16 and the Terms of Reference for that group.(9)

7.   A requirement to allow differences for certain categories of ships. (14) (Note IMO already recognizes some different categories—FV & MODUs and high speed craft)

8.   That over the years GMDSS had become the distress and safety system for non-SOLAS ships as well. (16)

9.   To have a forum in the future, to keep the system modern and up to date and whether the COMSAR Sub-Committee, which meets only once a year, would be the right body. (18)

10.   The development of a clearer definition of “General Communications”, which is continuing to cause some confusion in the marketplace. (20)


11.   The need for impact analysis of the cost impact, as will any amendments to the legislation and administration that may come about. (40)



e-Nav relationships

1.   The relation with the development of e-Navigation. (7)

2.   Which basic communication capabilities are properly part of the GMDSS and which should become a part of the developing e-navigation concept? (Cool

3.   The distress communications should be clearly separated from other types of communications. (13)

4.   The need to clarify the difference between power supplies for the GMDSS equipment and other equipment on the bridge. (39)

Technical issues

1.   The need for the current order of priorities in use for Radiocommunications (10)

2.   The introduction of a sort of advance notice message for circumstances where the state of this ship and/or crew was uncertain. (11)

3.   AIS safety related messaging, the role of NBDP and the role of MF/HF DSC. (21)

4.   Problems that might arise due to a lack of HF stations in the future. (22)

5.   The false alert rate for VHF DSC, which remains unacceptably high. (24)

6.   That voice communications remains an integral part of the GMDSS, benefitting search and rescue operations. (25)

7.   That VHF equipment used in the sea areas A1 might embrace more modern digital technology. (26)

8.   The evolution of more efficient satellite EPIRB systems and equipment designs. (30)

Incorporation of other capabilities

1.   New developments, mainly by non-GMDSS communication providers, as well as the use of mobile phones and regional satellite systems. (17)

2.   AIS safety related messaging, the role of NBDP and the role of MF/HF DSC. (21)

3.   Measures which could or should be taken to encourage additional service providers to enter the GMDSS. (27)

4.   The possible establishment of a requirement to carry a suitable hand-held satellite telephone terminal in some or all life rafts, and how its power supply could be assured. (29)

5.   The need for inclusion of the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) in the GMDSS suite of equipment. (29)

6.   The further evolution of Maritime Safety Information broadcast systems. (32)

7.   The potential benefit of permitting the use of regional satellite systems in ships that trade only within a restricted area, limited to the footprint of such systems. (33)

Spectrum requirements


1.   The need for continuing protection for the necessary spectrum for satellite-based radio-communication service for the GMDSS. (28)

2.   Additional spectrum requirements. (35)











Annex B

The following is a summary of a presentation made to the 2010 RTCM
conference in San Diego, USA.

RTCM PRESENTATION MAY 2010 GMDSS - A WAY AHEAD
What’s wrong with DSC?

These days, the GMDSS is all about Satcoms, and the drive for more and more
bandwidth to ships. 

No one uses the GMDSS HF gear…it sits in the corner of the bridge, gathering
dust….right?

Wrong.

A typical GMDSS HF Coast Radio Station receives, on average, 6000 DSC calls
per day. 
6000 calls, distributed over 2 – 16 MHz….

Even using a modest antenna system, you can hear calls on the 12 and 8 MHz
DSC channels at least every minute, all day.
 
What’s the problem?

The system is clearly being used and is working well technically – ships are
communicating with coast stations and other ships. 

DSC was originally designed to automate radiotelephone calls between ships
at sea and telephone subscribers ashore. 
However, satellite/cellular communications have replaced HF radio-based
telephone systems for merchant ships.

The result is that DSC is effectively designed around a function that no
longer exists.

This is evident in the number of redundant tele-commands incorporated in the
DSC standard.
 
Confusion….it need not be so…

One of the great advantages of using a PC for coast station DSC software is
that the operator interface can be easily modified or redesigned.  We can
change labels, we can alter the layout and we can hide the more baffling DSC
tele-commands to make the system operator friendly.

Alas, ships can’t do that...  They are faced with a myriad of menus,
containing many superfluous commands, all which are never used. 

The DSC technical specification, ITU Resolution –M.493, has been revised 13
times since it was first published. 
Many of the revisions incorporate very important operational and technical
updates, which make the system much more efficient and easier to use.

Equipment performance standards are updated as a result of the revisions,
and DSC manufacturers dutifully incorporate these updates into their latest
products.

However, where the good ship DSC hits the proverbial iceberg is real-world
implementation - the revised performance standards apply only to new
equipment…

There is no requirement for ships to update their DSC equipment to comply
with new specification.
So, as a result, ships are sailing around with 1st   and 2nd generation DSC
systems….old and clunky, full of redundant tele-commands, and thus a
nightmare to use….

To their credit, the USCG has identified this problem.

They put a paper to the recent IMO COMSAR meeting proposing that SOLAS
Chapter 4 be modified to require the latest DSC software version to be used.
 

This issue is moving forward through IMO, but it will take time to
implement…
 
Oversight…

Despite all the DSC traffic, many ships are still making fundamental
mistakes with the system. 

Using the latest software will go some way to fixing the problem – but, what
is really needed is for some central body to take charge of DSC, and conduct
an active monitoring and education campaign.   

Internet technology allows remote control of DSC shore stations from
anywhere in the world. 

A number of DSC HF monitoring stations could easily be controlled from a
central point, to provide world-wide coverage.

It would be a simple matter to match a ship’s DSC identity number (MMSI) to
her Inmarsat number. 

Ships which regularly breach DSC operational standards could be sent a
polite reminder (or even an operational guide) via Inmarsat….. 
 
Don’t let small craft near DSC…!

Many SAR agencies are reluctant to promote VHF DSC to recreational users
because of a fear of false alerts.

Any automated distress system will suffer a certain percentage of false
alerts, either malicious or inadvertent.

Training, education and equipment design will address the majority of these
problems - but there is one solution that would really solve the DSC false
alert issue…

Mandate that all DSC equipment is to be fitted with an inbuilt GPS/GNSS
receiver.

•Every distress call will contain a real position.
•This will all but eliminate malicious false alerts.
•Inadvertent alerts will be identified and localised.

 GNSS receivers are small and cheap – they could be easily integrated into a
VHF radio.

In summary - Fixing DSC…

•Remove the remainder of superfluous tele-commands from the standard, to
simplify the system as much as possible…DSC isn’t going to be used for
setting up phone or fax calls……

• Mandate updating of ship equipment to comply with the latest standards.

• Become pro-active with monitoring and real time education/mentoring.

• Fit an integrated GPS receiver to all new DSC radios.
 

 

UPDATING THE GMDSS

Let’s get rid of DSC….it is all too hard…

There has been ‘corridor discussion’ at IMO of removing MF DSC from Sea Area
A2 and possibly A3 – this smacks of the ‘turn it off and ignore it’
philosophy demonstrated by some ships.

Abandoning DSC would be a serious mistake. 

The inherent strength of the GMDSS is the multiplicity of communication
links it provides over different satellite and terrestrial bearers. 

If one system is down, you always have an alternative.

MF DSC provides ship-ship and ship-shore alerting in Sea Area A2 and
ship-ship alerting in Sea Area A3. 

What do we replace it with?  Satcom systems can not provide direct ship-ship
alerting to all other vessels in the area of the ship in distress.

Inmarsat C has demonstrated its worth time and time again for ship-shore
alerting – it is one of the GMDSS’ standout sub-systems.  However, it can
not replace DSC.

Yes, DSC has problems – but we must fix them, not just give up and say it is
all too hard…..
 
NBDP?  Ditch it…

NBDP (aka radio telex) is a clunky old system that (to my knowledge) has
never been used in anger for distress traffic. 

A3 ships already have an option to dispense with it – this should logically
be extended to all A3 ships.

I know if the water was coming in the bridge wing door, I would rather be
talking into a microphone than trying to type on a keyboard…
 
A truly global system?

Australia is still effectively running 2 distress systems in parallel –
GMDSS and pre-GMDSS.  Australia is not alone in this – many developed
nations still run old and new marine radio networks.

Many areas of the world have no GMDSS infrastructure at all…

Why? The GMDSS has been in place for more than 10 years….

If we are going to modernise the system, then surely we need to start with
making it universal.
 
Way ahead……it isn’t rocket science….
 
GMDSS shore infrastructure needs to be installed in the Pacific.
 
Marine Radio equipment standards for smaller, non-SOLAS vessels need to be
modified to include DSC. 
 
Governments need to amend their marine legislation to require DSC equipment
to be fitted to all ships - large and small.
 
GMDSS Sea Area A1 needs to be declared in areas of high shipping activity.
 
Governments need to develop a transition plan to eventually phase out voice
watchkeeping and replace it with automated DSC watches.
 


(Source: Densham and Associates )

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« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2010, 15:33:51 »

Here is an excellent reply from Owen Anderson, a very experienced GMDSS course provider:



The Modernization notes from 20 May 2010 were quite impressive. Obviously a lot of time and talent was dedicated to this task and a lot of important issues noted. There was a call for further input and I appreciate the opportunity to submit comments. At this time I will limit myself an area of particular importance to me.

In the items under WORKSHOP CONCLUSIONS:

13. Improving the HF Communications Option in GMDSS Modernization.
False alerts continue to be prevalent in the HF systems due to system complexity and poor operator training.

Under Annex A Issues:

15. The issue of training and performance of crews onboard ships.

19. The need to investigate the views of seafarers on possible improvements of distress and safety communications on board ships. Comment: This one is easy. Just get more GMDSS instructors involved in your group. They interact with thousands of mariners. Other than myself I only recognize one name on your address list with experience as a GMDSS instructor.

I have previously communicated with some of you but there are a number of people on the address list that I do not know. I hope you will bear with me while I relate some of my background. In June of 1944 I joined the Maritime Service and after basic training spent 6 months at Hoffman Island, NY training as for shipboard radio officer. My first vessel assignment was the S/S Madaket (Waterman SS) in January 1945 and my last vessel assignment was the M/V Sea-Land Explorer (Sea-Land) in September of 1990. I sailed on all types of vessels: Liberties, Victories, Tankers, Break Bulk Cargo, Ore Carriers, Container ships and Passenger vessels. In between those times I served as District Marine Service Manager for Mackay Radio in Philadelphia, Marine Service Engineer for ITT/Mackay Marine in New York, San Francisco and Seattle and as Coast Station Operator and Technician at Seattle Radio/KLB.

My involvement with GMDSS began in June 1998. I took all the necessary classes for certification as a GMDSS instructor and together with others set up the GMDSS program at Pacific Maritime Institute in Seattle. We developed a very detailed and rigorous curriculum. We have taught GMDSS to thousands of mariners. In 1999 I became the chair of a group of GMDSS Instructors responsible for merging two different GMDSS exam test pools, one from the USCG for STCW and the other for Element-7 for the FCC. I continue to be involved in GMDSS as chair of the Task Force Training Group. Our group developed a model course with an exam test pool for the restricted ROC certificate.
In 2006 we did a substantial upgrade to both the GOC and ROC test pools. With all the changes coming we will probably be doing an extensive upgrade in the next few months.

I certainly share the concerns for GMDSS Equipment Operational Competency. To the extent that it is lacking there are a number of reasons that will be addressed.

How did this competency problem happen? It would seem that all the IMO talent was expended on developing an extremely complex set of technical specifications (necessary to be sure) and functions and then they just handed off all these requirements to the manufacturers to implement as they saw fit as long as the equipment met the technical and functional requirements. Thus we ended up with an extremely complex menu structure that was different for each manufacturer.

Most training organizations concentrated on just one major manufacturer or if they had more than one manufacturers equipment they usually split the class up so the student only trained on one manufacturer’s equipment. Then there is the obvious complexity of the menu structure and little chance to actually use the equipment aboard ship on a regular basis, especially in the case of HF.

Remember the days when you:
1-Turned on the power.
2- Selected the desired Band.
3- Selected the desired channel/frequency.
4- Pressed the Push-to-Talk switch and started communicating.

That kind of simplicity may be unattainable for GMDSS but it certainly should be a goal toward which we should all strive.

Another factor is the absense of any kind of re-certification program for GMDSS. There is a re-cert program for Radar/CAS/ARPA for equipment that the deck officers use on a daily basis. Why not for GMDSS? This could be a simple 1 or 2 day equipment competency exam. If they failed they have to take the equipment lab portion of the course over. This should be done every 5 years.

Next we have the issue of “poor operator training”. Obviously this comment is aimed at the training organizations that teach GMDSS. I cannot comment on other organizations but we maintain very high standards at PMI and it’s not uncommon to have 1 or more students failing the course the first time around. Auditing the performance of these courses is the responsibility of the NMC.

Today we have a problem we did not have back in the late 90’s and early 2000s. That is the ability and trainability of the students. In most of my classes back in 98, 99, 2000 etc. the students were mostly experienced deep-water mariners. They were very competent persons and most had experience operating radiotelephone equipment. Today we are getting large numbers of small boat operators and cadets and frankly some present a real challenge to reach any degree of competency.

Hardware:

What is the solution? In my opinion it is essential that we strongly push for a universal, identical operator/machine interface (data I/O) device that will be used with all bridge equipment and be the same for all manufacturers.

This proposal suggests linking all the units together in a "Local Area Network" and combining most of the control and display functions into a simple hand-held unit with the profile of current smart phones using the case, mike, earphone and touch display screen as the basis for a completely revised control system that is identical for all the individual units in the GMDSS system.

The proposed system has the following advantages/features:

   Control systems completely identical regardless of device or manufacturer.
   All units would be linked together in a "Local Area Network".
   All electronic equipment on the bridge with Data I/O functions would be linked into the system, including Radar/CAS/ARPA, All satellite systems, NAVTEX, electronic charts, depth indicator and course, speed, engine RPM, etc would be incorporated into the network.
   All display and control functions would be readily accessible in a compact hand held unit.
   A distress alert may be sent from any individual device. A distress alert could also be sent from all other units simultaneously.
   In case of failure of the control head it can be easily replaced with a spare.
   If one control head fails any of the control heads from other units can be used to control all or any individual unit through the LAN.
   If the LAN fails the individual units can still be operated.
   Including all electronic devices in the system means that the control/display system will be utilized on a daily basis for routine communications and navigation.
   Using available mass produced components will reduce manufacturing costs.
   The control head will reside in a cradle on the equipment panel but with a cord long enough to allow the operator to handle other tasks while keeping an eye on the GMDSS system. There could also be remote locations for plugging in a control head.
   Intercom functions between remote locations and the bridge.

In my opinion, if the question of a standard Data-I/O system is not addressed as the highest priority then all the other suggested improvements will have only a marginal effect on the system. Software can always be easily upgraded over the internet but hardware is forever (or a very long time).

The software will provide different levels of access.

The primary level will only allow the core functions needed for distress, urgency and safety traffic.
There should be “prompts” at every step to insure proper procedure.

The secondary level will allow all other functions such as manual channel selection, setup changes and discrete frequency selection. This level will be password protected.

There could be a third level for various applications and for custom apps that each manufacturer might want to supply.

The attached drawings show the overall system and just the Data I/O device with some typical displays.

I look forward to your comments and further discussion.

Owen Anderson - GMDSS Instructor - Pacific Maritime Institute - Seattle
Chair - Training Group, GMDSS Task Force


6-21-2010
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« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2010, 15:34:38 »

My reply:



Hello Owen

Thanks for some very interesting ideas.

In Australia, we run GMDSS revalidation courses – this has helped a lot.

Whilst we all agree that a common design would be a great way forward, this will take time to implement and will be fiercely resisted by shipowners.


Deck Officers are not lacking in intelligence – getting a Master 1 Certificate is not easy, and involves lots of study.  These guys can clearly apply themselves if they want to.

Yes, GMDSS MF/HF radios can be difficult to understand, but I have run a few training courses myself, and MF/HF and DSC CAN be taught – as I’m sure you will agree.

It can be simplified – and the IMO “actions” flow chart is a big help – if in doubt, follow the chart!  We used to mandate that the chart was to be displayed alongside the GMDSS gear.

Deck Officers moan about unnecessary DSC alarms – most of these are caused by other Deck Officers who are not following the flow chart. 

All these false alerts fly about, yet no one wants to do anything about them.

In Australia, GMDSS courses follow the IMO model syllabus, and are 2 weeks long.  This is enough time to teach the basics of HF and DSC.  It can be boiled down to a simple set of do’s and don’ts.

And, as I like to tell my students….if in doubt – wait and listen on the R/T channel.

Rgds
Glenn
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« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2010, 15:35:53 »

Another excellent input from Kurt Anderson.



Fm: Kurt Anderson,    GMDSS Instructor 1999-2010
         Radio Officer USMM 1979-1999

Subj: GMDSS Modernization


DSC Controller functions


The problem of DSC Acknowledgements/Relays has been discussed endlessly and for well over a decade and yet they still plague the watch-standing deck officer.  As an instructor I issue paper copies of DSC Acknowledgements & relays received at our school in Seattle.

We don’t even have antennas currently hooked up and yet -- we still have received in the last year multiple calls from NOJ Kodiak and NMC Pt. Reyes.  These calls can persist over hours. In one instance the call originated from 9 degrees south and 76 degrees East -- how many ships it took to daisy-chain that one from the Indian Ocean to the U.S. on 8414.5 MHz can’t be known -- but it must have been multiple vessels.

Everyone should know the problems associated with the DSC false alert problem persist. Training of officers can only partially solve this problem (see below). If the format of the DSC call cannot be readily altered then at least the manufacturer’s software must be changed. This change must be made retroactive to all currently installed DSC units whether through software or hardware upgrades. Officer aggravation would be exponentially reduced and a corresponding confidence in GMDSS greatly enhanced by this one change.

For instance -- the new Furuno MF-HF console has removed the DSC ACK feature and brought the Relay SEL command to a more prominent menu location but the Relay All command is still the first on offer.

The only DSC Relay function that should be available to a ship’s officer is the Relay Select command.  Just as now -- it should appear at the end of any incoming DSC Distress with nature and position call.  This menu should also be the only DSC Relay function apparent at the end of examining a past Distress DSC call in the data directory. 

The Relay select field should enforce the first two digits as double-zero to ensure that only coast stations get the call. The removal of the All-ships ACK/RELay features from the ships would also eliminate the problems caused by the lack of YY/MM/DD values in DSC calls dredged up and re-transmitted days and months later.

SAR communications would not be impaired by this change.  Nearly the entire DSC alarm problem is caused by inattentive and insufficiently trained officers -- in response to situations that are not genuine Distress alerts in the first place.   The removal of ACK/REL all ships commands will eliminate the blizzard of false alarms and will not prevent vessels from being rescued.  If the ACK/REL command was used in response to an inadvertent DSC alert it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.  If the Distress is genuine -- the ACK and Relay commands are unnecessary.  The information pertaining to any authentic distress could always be conveyed ashore to SAR authorities by a wide variety of communications modes -- not by lighting up the whole ocean with DSC calls and alarms.  The good intentions of the system designers are evident but no human can deal well with a Distress system leading to a barrage of alarms/alerts.  (While serving in East Asian waters I have recorded them at 20 per minute on a bad day.)

Part 80 CFR currently reads:

80.1117  Procedure for receipt and acknowledgement of distress alerts.

    (a) Normally, distress calls received using digital selective
calling are only acknowledged using a DSC acknowledgement by a coast
station. Ships should delay any acknowledgement in order to give
sufficient time for a coast station to acknowledge the call. In cases
where no acknowledgement has been heard and no distress traffic has been heard, the ship should transmit a distress alert relay to the coast station. Upon advice from the Rescue Coordination Center, the ship may transmit a DSC acknowledgement call to stop it from being repeated.
 
This language is a vast improvement over prior regulations. However, the third sentence is still problematic.  Given that almost no DSC Distress alert turns out to be from a genuinely distressed vessel -- it requires of a ship (that for propagation reasons didn’t catch a Coast Station’s Ack or Relay) to deluge coast stations with DSC calls concerning alerts that in all likelihood were accidentally transmitted to begin with. Compliance with this by anyone will inevitably will result in a vastly greater workload at the DSC coast stations with consequent distraction to CRS watchstanders.
 
“No distress traffic heard” -- that’s almost assuredly a false alarm.  At minimum -- this language should make explicitly mandatory what it implicitly suggests -- that the Relay Select command be used. If there is an incessant DSC Distress transmission from a vessel then it is either genuine (and likely from an unmanned bridge) or it is not genuine.  In either case the RCC should get various Coast Stations to collaborate to silence it and keep the ship’s officers out of the loop.  On an interim basis the language should be changed to try and keep ships from re-transmitting calls out of the data directory or of sending Ack and Relay responses to the Ack and Relay commands of other stations.

However -- the software should not be altered based upon any nautical mile radius mentality -- ships hundreds and even thousands of miles away might be able to render communications assistance (especially in remote locations such as the poles) -- without being able to render physical assistance.  Also many ships have been known to have defective GPS equipment without being aware of it and to have incorrect manual positions entered -- this would totally bollix any DSC computer trying to make automated software decisions based on accurate positions.

SSB Transceiver:

GMDSS consoles typically use a software database with the Duplex/Simplex Voice and Telex ITU assignments.  It would be useful if all of the consoles gave some indication that the emission selected does not match the frequencies chosen by the officer -- some warning to the watch officer would be nice. 

For instance -- the latest Furuno console does not show a channel field value when the emission and frequencies do not match.   It does the same thing when a manual receive entry outside of the Marine bands is performed.

The manufacturers were given far too much latitude in their transceiver software  -- the DSC software and officer practice refers to “channels”.  This variability is an absolute disgrace and danger.  For instance -- the SEA console requires a “CH450” entry to arrive at 4125.0 kHz but a Furuno vessel requires a “CH400” entry to get there.  Neither of these entries is a valid ITU designation – each manufacturer made it up.  In isolation their logic is apparent but neither agrees with the logic of the other. You hear vessels in the Bering Sea requesting “meet me on “CH450” all the time without any awareness this is not a valid ITU designation or that Furuno vessels don’t have any such database value and therefore cannot switch to a “CH450.”

Instead there should be a simplex/duplex command referencing only the ITU assignment values for worldwide & logical consistency.  This command could easily be engineered with software and/or a simple switch.

Transceiver switching issues:

A USCG email recently made the rounds warning of the automatic switching of VHF units in response to incoming DSC calls taking vessels off of VTS channels etc. Is it known that some units additionally decide to shift from USA mode to International mode upon an incoming Ch-70 alert? This is an especially hot topic here in Seattle where we have a VTS of CH 5A and the International border with Canada to deal with for VHF operations.

The problem also afflicts the MF-HF world. We received a 12 MHz DSC call at the school which controlled our sideband transceiver to the alternate frequency of 12345.6 kHz!!!  The student examined it and instantly started laughing but not all officers are that trained and aware. (The frequency is obviously not a designated Marine frequency.)

This is a very real danger resulting from an automated unit or ignorant officer response to such calls.  This problem was apparent from the first.  That is why it is explicitly referred to by the NMC equipment competencies that all NMC approved U.S. GMDSS schools are supposed to be teaching.   Different manufacturer’s software deal with this issue differently and some manufacturers change their software over time.



Training:

The 20 May 2010 Task Force document makes reference to “poor operator training.”  It is a significant part of why the GMDSS system continues to have problems. Basing a curriculum on the IMO Model course is just the beginning -- the devil is in the details. Having examined course books from both International & U.S. schools I would have to say that far too many fall short – incomplete, unorganized, out of date (and in some cases saying things I find to be factually untrue.) 

Regardless of whether live equipment or simulation is used -- the heart of GMDSS instruction is whether the lab experience actually imparts the necessary skill set.  This level of proficiency needs to build on the academic curriculum to produce officers who understand GMDSS, understand its flaws and can still effectively get themselves, their crew and fellow mariners rescued in a SAR crisis.

Once the NMC issues a course approval what are U.S. schools doing?  Is there any adequate procedure for auditing STCW proficiency assessments or the schools’ graduation rates or of re-examining the courses to see if they truly measure up to the desired mark?   Are schools and instructors fulfilling their obligations? Diploma mills are not an unknown phenomenon in colleges and adult education -- maritime vocational and academies are not immune from the possibility -- scuttlebutt is an old maritime tradition … is anyone interested? Competency assessment requires experience, judgment and fairness. It rests on a willingness to uphold standards on the part of the assessor and the acceptance on the part of the candidate of the validity of those standards. 

Currently in the U.s. nearly all the annual inspections are conducted by shore-based maintainers and occasionally some other designated examiners.  Based on anecdotal evidence and my own experience I would maintain that not all shore-based maintainers have sufficient grasp on the nexus of operational procedures, law and menu variations to be able to comprehensively make assessments of the competencies of a vessel’s officers on the annual inspection or random Port State control inspections. There is also a potential conflict of interest here that should trouble all of us in the industry and government.



What does work in GMDSS?

I am not one who sits around nostalgic for Morse code -- it was always a bit of a pain.  However, GMDSS modernization should not throw out systems such as SITOR, which are tried and true.  Frankly it isn’t that hard to teach and nearly all students take to it in fairly short order.  SITOR transmissions are effective in signal conditions in which voice hasn’t a chance.

Our industry, society and the entire U.S. military is demonstrably over reliant on satellite systems that don’t invariably work and would be endangered in times of war -- exactly when we would need a working Distress system most. New environmental and communications curriculum is being contemplated as summertime transits of the Artic become possible -- what is an A4 ship going to do in the poles with one less tool at their disposal?

Doing away with the capabilities of MF-HF (as some have argued) is extremely shortsighted. A ship that meets the A3 carriage requirements by installing two Sat-C terminals so they can cut costs and avoid DSC alerts can rescue itself but it can’t rescue the rest of us! It has neither the equipment nor the operator familiarity necessary to a SAR situation -- why have aircraft with 4125, 3023 and 5680 kHz if the ships involved have no SSB capable of communications? There is a vast reservoir of MF-HF procedures and experience in the industry, in the SAR forces around the world and still referenced by  the IAMSAR manual.  Why are we talking about reducing proven capabilities in a Distress system?

I flatly reject the position that it is “too hard to teach” so we should just give up. One of the most important pieces of student knowledge is that 2 MHz should ‘paint’ a 150 NM radius of communications around a vessel on Distress (without any further quandary about the mysteries of the ionosphere). In most of Europe and large parts of the NW Pacific & Southeast Asia that could suffice to carry the entire Distress to a successful conclusion.  Australia as a single nation continent made a logical choice to jump to A3 and America could have made a similar choice but we are nearing implementation of A2 after years of waiting -- why quit now?  A3 HF should be retained and improved in the U.S.

Operator Interface:

Manufacturing standards for the machine-human interface should also be examined.  The constant drive to shave costs by reducing dedicated controls, combing separate radios into one box etc. only ends up with a puzzle palace of hierarchal menus that many otherwise competent officers have a hard time recalling or navigating.  The same mentality afflicts ARPA and ECDIS equipment.  Without calling out any manufacturer in particular -- a Distress system based on a 75-cent plastic knob prone to breakage or erratic and idiosyncratic software is not what we should be tolerating.


Sincerely,

Kurt Anderson
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« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2010, 15:36:29 »

Russ Levin's reply:



Kurt:
Thank you for your excellent input.

Problems with equipment and necessary improvements:
   1. We need to consider a requirement that all GMDSS equipment utilize the latest software that has been written to correct previous errors. This may be difficult in some older equipment but worth considering.

   2. Later versions of software need to simplify the operation by eliminating seldom used functions and reduce the number of "layers" to reach a desired function in the menu.

Problems with training:

   1. Diploma mills will always be around and the best way to eliminate these is to have a requirement that a sample lab portion be observed by a third party for quality control.

   2. The training that is done well is lost when the equipment is not used. Use of MF/HF for ship's business is no longer viable due to the loss of commercial shore stations. Use of satellite is required by most companies.

I agree with your comments on SITOR/NBDP but the use of that mode needs to be updated and computer based, better automated, and much simpler to operate if there is to be any hope. Again loss of shore stations has greatly impacted the use of NBDP for ship's business.

v/r

Russ
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« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2010, 15:42:32 »

Kurt's comments on Ed's paper:

(great comments on HF, BTW...)




KA: I agree that 2 Mhz should be retained for the reasons noted in my other email  – GMDSS (and all) vessels can count on the ground wave radius of 150 NM without worrying about HF propagation.  2182 kHz is also a long used and understood contact frequency for non-GMDSS (recreational boaters etc.) craft.


KA: Excellent idea – more choices in polar coverage and Iridium is now being used for LRIT = synergy amongst systems for once. (alternative satellite providers)


KA: I think the current 4 message priorities of Distress, Urgency, Safety & Routine should be retained.  They are of long standing, are well understood by ship & shore officers and provide a vital distinction.  There is a huge reservoir of regulation and training that would have to be revised by letting the machine speed govern the issue.  Human officers can deal with distinctions.  There’s a vast difference between a Securite call about containers lost over the side and a Mayday call about a fire/explosion.  Mr. Hersey – if I am misunderstanding the single category of “Priority” comment how exactly would that play out?

KA: While it is true the MF-HF general communications world has severely diminished -- there are still many places in the world it retains its effectiveness.  Even in the U.S. WLO Mobile did a great job during hurricane Katrina and they’re giving us HF voice/SITOR ops in the Pacific via KLB. These stations are reachable worldwide with the skills supposed to be taught in all GMDSS STCW classes.  Ships have to test the gear once a day anyway and should be encouraged to keep their hand in by sending a synoptic weather once via SITOR and once via Sat-C.  Again – why do we want to do away with layers of redundancy and of multiple capacities?


KA: at the equipment level LRIT and SSAS device logically should be covered in the GMDSS class.  Academically they bear on the Ship’s Security Officer class, the SAR class and the Emergency procedures class.  I have been working on new curriculum this year for all four classes.  My concern is adding these features to a Competency & Proficiency exam week that is already heavily burdened would raise new difficulties.  How deep are we going to go if there are equipment proficiencies?  Perhaps there could be a half or full day addition to the Security Officer class for lab familiarization and training if adding to GMDSS seems undesirable.

(survival craft equipment)
KA: Long desirable – economizing on S.C.E. equipment is a far-too frequent decision by companies – it frequently is the bare minimum requirements from the least expensive and not very well made equipment providers.


KA: There have been numerous attempts over the years to scrap the HF weather transmissions.  Many vessels do have computer or web based weather delivery systems but not everyone does.  The surface analysis & 500 MB charts form the core of the STCW classes on weather and on heavy weather avoidance.  They are widely used in the industry and should be continued.


(non-SOLAS vessels)

KA: This is one reason why the MF-HF capabilities of GMDSS should be retained.  The U.S, fishing industry has one of the highest industry death rates and it is long past due that they have the same capabilities as similarly sized vessels.  The industry exemption of one year after the USCG declares A1 & A2 in effect should be revisited if it is going to take until 2017 to complete the work in Alaska.  No fishing vessel I know of is ever going to be just an A2 vessel – the fish live out in the Bering and the Gulf and nearly all F/V make an A3 transit to Puget Sound or other West coast ports to resupply and retrofit.  For all practical purposes they are all A3 ships right now.


(false alerts)



KA: The strict policing of inadvertent alerts by Inmarsat is an example that could well be carried over to the MF-HF world.  Recent emails have made mention of computerized DSC stations – are these widely in use?  What do the watch-standers at USCG COMMSTAs do?  Years ago at a conference while inquiring about log-keeping at NOJ, I asked the Lt. what was done with the logs and he said “we just mail them to Pt. Reyes & what they do with them I don’t know.” Many ships keep their logs in electronic format.

If all these DSC alerts are captured in electronic memory it should be relative easy to collate them and “counsel” (or tie up) the most frequent and flagrant offenders. Of course, if there wasn’t the blizzard of DSC Acks & Relays the workload of the Coast station and vessel personnel would be reduced by at least 97% and probably more.  The log-keeping CFR should be revised to only request records of ‘first link in the chain’ DSC Distress Alerts (i.e. those with a single MMSI.) 

Having ships keep logs of Relays and Acks from other vessels and from shore stations is a colossal waste of a ship officer’s time.  First link DSC Distress calls are either real and should be logged & responded to by the receiving vessel or they are inadvertent and should be recorded to identify those still misusing the GMDSS system.   In 5 months of active sea-time with the GMDSS console I personally typed up 4-5,000 DSC Distress calls and none that I can recall were from the original vessel and absolutely none had any follow-on communications – whether cancellations or human distress communications. Nations whose vessels ‘lead the league’ in inadvertent alerts could be asked to review their training or inspections of such flags could be intensified.
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« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2010, 15:01:54 »

Ships are still making mistakes with DSC.

We have a coast station DSC system set up here, and I often sit and watch ships making stupid mistakes.

A classic...just a minute ago - a ship sent an all stations test call....so, all coast stations in range automatically responded....

Our station here did, along with Charleville (Australia) and Taupo NZ..... 
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« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2010, 14:26:28 »

A short video showing DSC traffic being received off air at a Coast Station:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqAwZRulbZQ



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