For thousands of years, fishing has played a role in shaping and supporting Scandinavian families, businesses, and communities. Today in Bømlo, Norway, many families who have a long heritage in fishing continue to own and operate trawlers. Fishing remains a major economic contributor in the region, with many species, such as herring and mackerel, harvested from the waters of the North, Norwegian and Barents Seas.
These waters are among some of the most dangerous in the world, with potentially life-threatening and hazardous situations that can occur quickly and without warning. When these situations arise, crews of fishing vessels such as the Bømlo-based M/S Lønningen need a quick, efficient, and most importantly, reliable means of communication, regardless of the vessel’s location. Today, the Lønningen and a handful of other Bømlo-based fishing vessels rely on the Iridium® Global Maritime Distress & Safety System (GMDSS) for reliable coverage at sea where no other options exist.
Since 1999, GMDSS has been the stalwart for oceangoing vessels to receive navigational, safety, and weather information via satellite from national Maritime Safety Information Providers (MSIPs) and coastal agencies. Vessels use GMDSS to send alerts to Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) authorities during a distress situation. The RCCs communicate with a vessel during the distress, coordinating resources to initiate and support rescue.
However, the Geostationary (GEO) satellites delivering GMDSS did not provide truly global service, leaving gaps in coverage for mariners. If a vessel operated in the polar regions for example, it needed Medium Frequency (MF) or High Frequency (HF) equipment fitted for Sea Area A4 compliance. Additionally, in the event of a distress situation, a mariner could only send a GMDSS alert to an RCC using a text-based solution. This not only provided major inconveniences, but it also meant vital seconds were lost and valuable information could be omitted during an emergency situation.
Iridium & GMDSS
In 2020, Iridium received International Maritime Organization (IMO) recognition as a GMDSS provider. For the first time in history, mariners now have a choice in selecting safety services at sea. Iridium GMDSS offers several major improvements over the previous option, ranging from better coverage, and enhanced capabilities at a more affordable cost.
Iridium GMDSS delivers truly global, weather-resilient connectivity at sea, including in the polar regions. The Lars Thrane LT-3100S Iridium GMDSS terminal offers a complete solution, incorporating distress alerting, Maritime Safety Information (MSI), Long Range Identification And Tracking (LRIT), Ship Security Alert System (SSAS), and commercial services.
Iridium GMDSS also includes Iridium SafetyCast®, which delivers important navigational and meteorological information to vessels equipped with Iridium GMDSS, enabling proactive safety measures. The integration of GMDSS, SSAS and LRIT into a single terminal provides a cost-effective safety solution for mariners. Within seconds of pressing the red button, the crew of the stricken vessel can communicate verbally with rescue authorities and coordinate an effective response.
With Iridium GMDSS, the implementation and operation cost less and doesn’t require a steep learning curve when compared to other systems. Day-to-day operations are simplified, such as reviewing MSI messages, which can be viewed through a connected computer using the LT3100S web interface. The integrated telephone handset also allows for simple voice calling without the need for additional equipment.
Iridium GMDSS In Action
Installed by Norwegian marine electronics services company Brommeland Elektronikk, the LT-3100S terminal aboard the Lønningen provides truly global communications unimpeded by treacherous weather or geography, giving the crew and their loved ones back home in Bømlo peace of mind that they will stay safe and connected.
With Iridium GMDSS, the crew aboard the Lønningen can speak in Norwegian with RCC Stavanger, whereas in the past they could only communicate in their native language via text. During an emergency situation where every second counts, this provides another advantage that saves valuable seconds during an emergency.
Erlend Lønning, CEO of Bømlo Trål AS, is delighted at the advance in safety for his vessel and crew. “My crew are very experienced and capable of handling most emergency situations,” he said. “Having the Iridium GMDSS terminal installed provides peace of mind to the crew that help is only a button push away, and they are talking with the RCC and receiving vital assistance and advice.”
Beyond Fishing: How GMDSS Helps To Safeguard All Mariners
In addition to fishing trawlers, a wide range of vessels ranging from merchant ships to military and even yachts and small leisure craft, are utilizing Iridium GMDSS. Iridium GMDSS represents an evolution in maritime safety services, giving maritime safety a voice and playing a critical role in saving the lives of seafarers in Scandinavia and the entire world.