What is the GMDSS?

The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) is a set of protocols, equipment and communications systems designed to ensure that if a ship is in distress, aid can be dispatched from anywhere in the world. Under the International Convention of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), all ships over 300 gross tonnage on international voyages must carry specified radiocommunications equipment, both satellite and terrestrial, for sending and receiving distress, safety and general communications.

Developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the GMDSS first came into use in the 1990s, redefining how distress communications were sent. For the first time, ships were instructed to send alerts to shore, rather than to other ships, allowing shore-based facilities to take responsibility for coordinating necessary rescue efforts. In addition to improving ship distress communications, GMDSS also provided for the automatic broadcast of Maritime Safety Information (MSI), allowing ships to navigate the waters more safely.

What is the GMDSS?

The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) is a set of protocols, equipment and communications systems designed to ensure that if a ship is in distress, aid can be dispatched from anywhere in the world. Under the International Convention of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), all ships over 300 gross tonnage on international voyages must carry specified radiocommunications equipment, both satellite and terrestrial, for sending and receiving distress, safety and general communications.

Developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the GMDSS first came into use in the 1990s, redefining how distress communications were sent. For the first time, ships were instructed to send alerts to shore, rather than to other ships, allowing shore-based facilities to take responsibility for coordinating necessary rescue efforts. In addition to improving ship distress communications, GMDSS also provided for the automatic broadcast of Maritime Safety Information (MSI), allowing ships to navigate the waters more safely.

You Deserve a Choice

When GMDSS was initially established over 20 years ago, only one satellite company was approved to provide the service – and it did not (and still does not) provide truly global coverage. Further, since the inception of GMDSS, there have been many advances in technology, and the number of vessels at sea has increased dramatically. A reliable, robust, and truly global satellite GMDSS solution is critical.

In May 2018, the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) recognized Iridium to offer maritime distress and safety communications within the GMDSS. This recognition ended a decades-long monopoly and allows for coverage where none existed before, including in Sea Area A4. As Iridium works with partners to develop GMDSS product solutions, the new competition is expected to drive supplier diversity and reduce the costs of shipboard equipment.

You Deserve a Choice

When GMDSS was initially established over 20 years ago, only one satellite company was approved to provide the service – and it did not (and still does not) provide truly global coverage. Further, since the inception of GMDSS, there have been many advances in technology, and the number of vessels at sea has increased dramatically. A reliable, robust, and truly global satellite GMDSS solution is critical.

In May 2018, the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) recognized Iridium to offer maritime distress and safety communications within the GMDSS. This recognition ended a decades-long monopoly and allows for coverage where none existed before, including in Sea Area A4. As Iridium works with partners to develop GMDSS product solutions, the new competition is expected to drive supplier diversity and reduce the costs of shipboard equipment.

The Iridium Advantage

The Iridium network is designed to work in extreme conditions at sea. Our unique design consists of 66 cross-linked satellites in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) covering the entire globe, pole-to-pole. LEO provides a stronger signal and better “look angles” than geostationary satellites, helping keep ships connected, even in adverse weather.

Iridium will be the first satellite provider to provide GMDSS globally, including over Sea Area A4, one of the most dangerous areas of the Earth, which is not currently served by the only satellite GMDSS solution.

Today, Iridium equipment is already used on 50,000 vessels (20% of which are SOLAS vessels) for non-GMDSS safety and security purposes. The Iridium network is resilient, robust, and already a trusted provider of safety and security services in the maritime, aviation, land, government and IoT markets.

The Iridium Advantage

The Iridium network is designed to work in extreme conditions at sea. Our unique design consists of 66 cross-linked satellites in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) covering the entire globe, pole-to-pole. LEO provides a stronger signal and better “look angles” than geostationary satellites, helping keep ships connected, even in adverse weather.

Iridium will be the first satellite provider to provide GMDSS globally, including over Sea Area A4, one of the most dangerous areas of the Earth, which is not currently served by the only satellite GMDSS solution.

Today, Iridium equipment is already used on 50,000 vessels (20% of which are SOLAS vessels) for non-GMDSS safety and security purposes. The Iridium network is resilient, robust, and already a trusted provider of safety and security services in the maritime, aviation, land, government and IoT markets.

Status of Iridium's GMDSS Application

In May 2018, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) officially recognized Iridium to provide GMDSS services. This is a significant achievement that ended a decades-long monopoly on the satellite component of GMDSS. For the first time, Iridium will bring competition and truly global coverage to mariners sailing any of the world’s oceans.

Status of Iridium's GMDSS Application

In May 2018, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) officially recognized Iridium to provide GMDSS services. This is a significant achievement that ended a decades-long monopoly on the satellite component of GMDSS. For the first time, Iridium will bring competition and truly global coverage to mariners sailing any of the world’s oceans.

Planned Iridium GMDSS Equipment

Since IMO recognition to provide GMDSS solutions was secured, Iridium has been focused on efforts to implement the service. Currently, experienced, best-in-class manufacturing teams are developing and eventually will be testing new GMDSS hardware for use on the Iridium system.

Expected to launch in early 2020, Iridium will deliver new GMDSS voice and data solutions with improved Search & Rescue (SAR) functionalities in a single, small-form-factor maritime terminal enabled by our dependable, global network.

Planned Iridium GMDSS Equipment

Since IMO recognition to provide GMDSS solutions was secured, Iridium has been focused on efforts to implement the service. Currently, experienced, best-in-class manufacturing teams are developing and eventually will be testing new GMDSS hardware for use on the Iridium system.

Expected to launch in early 2020, Iridium will deliver new GMDSS voice and data solutions with improved Search & Rescue (SAR) functionalities in a single, small-form-factor maritime terminal enabled by our dependable, global network.