The IMO’s Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications, Search & Rescue (NCSR) held its 1st Session (NCSR1), following re-organisation of the IMO Sub-Committee structure, from Monday 30 June through Friday 4 July 2014.  74 Member States and 1 Associate Member State were represented;  in addition, 8 Inter-Governmental together with 22 Non-Governmental organisations (bolstered by members of a United Nations and a Specialised Agency) also lent representation.  Mr Carlos Salgado (CHILE) was unanimously elected Chairman for 2014 at the opening of the session, as also was his Vice-Chairman, Mr Ringo Lakeman (NL);  both were subsequently re-elected for 2015.


During the course of the meeting, three Working Groups (WG) and one drafting group (DG)  were formed and chaired as follows:


WG1           Search and Rescue, Mr N Clifford (NEW ZEALAND)

WG2           Ships Routing, Mr R Lakeman  (NETHERLANDS)

WG3           Technical, Mr A Schwarz (GERMANY)

DG              Finalisation of Draft Circulars and Resolution, Mr Yijiang Qu (CHINA)


It may be worth noting that in the re-organisation of the IMO’s Sub-Committee structure, NCSR (like SDC), inherited a very large and wide-ranging workload.  The following salient points of particular interest to InterManager members will thus be suitably selective in the interest of brevity.  Herewith:


  • ROUTING OF SHIPS, SHIP REPORTING AND RELATED MATTERS.  Approval was given to amendments for:


  1. the existing Traffic Separation Scheme (TSC) in the Strait of Gibraltar;
  2. the TSC off Chengshan Jiao Promontory and its mandatory ship reporting system;
  3. the routing system off Friesland;
  4. the existing two-way route in the Great North-East Channel;
  5. establishment of two-way routes at Jomard Entrance, Papua New Guinea;
  6. revocation of the area to be avoided in the Great Barrier Reef Region.


However, the establishment of a new mandatory ship reporting system in the Izmit Bay (IZMITRAP) was not agreed and TURKEY was invited to reconsider the proposal for future submission.  Meanwhile, the Secretariat will produce a model/template for use by Governments prior to making proposals on ships’ routing and reporting systems.


  • ECDIS – CARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS.  IHO, CIRM and IEC co-sponsored a report   (NCSR 1/4) on the revision of ECDIS standards (related to reported anomalies), which also addressed the transition to the new standards.  Actions taken by IHO to monitor and address implementation of the SOLAS carriage requirements were also considered.  In discussion, views were expressed that:


  1. there are a number of ECDIS issues pending resolution;
  2. ‘ECDIS that is not updated for the latest version of IHO Standards may not meet the

SOLAS chart carriage requirements (SN.1/Circ.266/Rev 1);  and

  1. there may be unintended consequences arising from the updating of existing standards on an ad hoc basis without proper control/oversight from IMO.


However, given that no further work has been identified, this item will relinquish its status as agenda item 25 and from henceforth be reported to the Sub-Committee under any other business.


Of most note was an Information Paper submitted by the REPUBLIC OF KOREA (ROK), reporting on a user survey of ECDIS with regard to anomalies identification, level of seafarer satisfaction, and requirements for functional improvement.  The results indicate a need for improvements to the ECDIS performance standard to meet the needs of users.  The most significant gaps in the current ECDIS being:


  1. ENC information display;
  2. route planning;
  3. route monitoring and alarm;  and
  4. updating.


The new ECDIS standards being developed, as reported by IHO, CIRM and IEC, will hopefully take the findings of the ROK survey into careful consideration during such a revision.


  • CONSOLIDATION OF ECDIS-RELATED IMO CIRCULARS.  The Sub-Committee endorsed a draft MSC Circular on ECDIS-Guidance for good practice.  The draft will be forwarded to the HTW Sub-Committee for review, in particular, the provisions related to ECDIS training and the use of simulators, then sent to MSC for subsequent approval.  It effectively consolidates the text of seven ECDIS-related circulars thus permitting easy upkeep of information without the need for continual cross-referencing or indeed, having to sort out duplication.


  • APPLICATION OF THE SATELLITE NAVIGATION SYSTEM ‘BEIDOU’ IN THE MARITIME FIELD.  The Sub-Committee agreed that CHINA has provided the necessary information and will recommend to MSC that BDS be recognised as a future component of the WWWRNS.  It was noted that INDIA is developing a similar system called ‘GAGAN’.


  • LRIT-RELATED MATTERS.  The Secretariat was instructed to modify the web interface of the DDP, allowing the LRIT Coordinator to upload summary audit reports and related information conducted directly in the DDP, making such information available to GISIS users of Member States.  Measures to promote a wider and more efficient use of the LRIT system were agreed, in particular, the use of the system by SAR services during the implementation of SAR-related technical cooperation activities.  The Sub-Committee recognised the need for a review of the LRIT system, including measures to improve its financial sustainability and viability and invited appropriate proposals from Member Governments.  In consideration of the original purpose and intent of LRIT, now may be the time to consider whether the objective might be met by other means, such as the use of satellite augmented AIS.




  1. NCSR 1/9 and NCSR 1/9/1 (NORWAY) containing the report of the CG on e-navigation along with a draft SIP and four related draft guidelines;
  2. NCSR 1/9/2 (GERMANY) commenting on 1/9;  and
  3. NCSR 1/9/3 (CIRM) also commenting on 1/9 and proposing the removal of reference to the development of S-Mode from the SIP.


An additional seven INF papers were also submitted.


During consideration of the draft SIP, views were expressed that IMO should continue to lead this work in order to ensure structured and coordinated global implementation, also that a project management approach should be adopted.


GERMANY agreed to consider the proposals in NCSR 1/9/2 under a different agenda item whilst CIRM’s recommendation to delete references to S-Mode from the SIP in NCSR 1/9/3, was roundly opposed by a majority of delegations.


The Sub-Committee finalised the SIP for MSC approval and endorsed NORWAY’S draft Guidelines in Harmonistation of test beds reporting.  Further, it agreed to establish a CG on Harmonisation of Guidelines related to e-navigation as coordinated by AUSTRALIA.  The CG was instructed to consolidate the draft Guidelines on:  Human Centred Design (HCD);  Usability Testing, Evaluation and Assessment (UTEA);  also Software quality assurance (SQA) into a single and harmonised guideline.  Human element aspects generating specific questions will be addressed to HTW2 and a final report submitted to NCSR2.



  • REVISION OF THE GUIDELINES FOR THE ONBOARD OPERATIONAL USE OF SHIPBORNE AUTOMATIC IDENTIFICATION SYSTEMS (AIS).  The Sub-Committee endorsed a draft Assembly resolution regarding revised AIS guidelines, as recommended by the drafting group, for approval by MSC.


  • RECOGNITION OF IRIDIUM MOBILE-SATELLITE SYSTEM AS A GMDSS SERVICE PROVIDER.  Following an extensive discussion, the Sub-Committee registered general support for the Iridium application to be evaluated in accordance with resolution A.1001(25) and agreed that there are three possible courses of action, viz:


  1. MSC could consider convening a group of experts to assist in the evaluation process and provide technical advice, including requests for support from other organisations such as IHO, WMO and others;  or
  2. MSC might ponder as to which independent body should produce a technical and  operational assessment, providing a report to NCSR for evaluation; or
  3. additional information deemed to be required for this assessment could be presented directly to the independent body through the Secretariat.  This might help to allay the many reservations expressed by UK, also the concerns of others, such as:  incompatibility of satellite systems and of equipment requirements under SOLAS chapter IV;  additional requirements and equipment for SAR authorities and RCCs; the limitation of the network architecture with regard to the number of accesses to land stations which could influence the effective dissemination of information;  and the costs associated with equipment acquisition and transmission of MSI related messages, etc.


Recognising the importance of considering future developments in maritime radiocommunication systems and technology, also that further proposals might be submitted, the Sub-Committee will invite MSC to extend the target completion year for this planned output to 2015.


  • REVIEW AND MODERNISATION OF GMDSS.  The Sub-Committee noted that the Joint IMO/ITU Expert Group has finalised the draft outcome of the High-Level review of the GMDSS, based on a draft prepared by the CG.  In this context, the Sub-Committee:


  1. noted that, although in most cases the same equipment was used, security related communications, including the Ship Security Alert System, did not form part of the GMDSS and are clearly separated from the new proposed functional requirements for a modernised GMDSS.  Thus it endorsed a revised definition of ‘Security related Communications’, to be added to SOLAS regulation IV/2 (paragraph 6 of appendix 2);
  2. endorsed a revision of the ‘General Communications’ definition in SOLAS;
  3. left the current definition of Maritime Safety Information (MSI) unchanged in SOLAS but included the abbreviation MSI;
  4. endorsed the proposal to add a new functional requirement for ships to be capable of transmitting and receiving safety related information, whilst retaining the functional requirement to receive MSI;
  5. endorsed ten functional requirements;
  6. noted that four levels of priority should be retained whilst two are sufficient for controlling the radio communications  link, for example by using pre-emption;
  7. noted that sea areas A1 and A2 should be retained separately;
  8. noted that options for definition of sea areas A3 and A4 would be further considered;
  9. noted that currently, there is no compelling case for developing a GMDSS Code;
  10. noted that issues to allow for differences between certain categories of ships will be further considered;
  11. noted that it is too early to decide which systems and equipment will be included in a modernised GMDSS;  and
  12. noted the need for interoperability of radio-communications between ships, also between ships and shore stations as well as the need for consistent user interfaces and that the use of goal-based methodologies are not appropriate.


Note was taken of the opinions from the Technical WG that when considering coordination between the GMDSS review and e-navigation projects, there are possibilities that:


  1. the current strict control of the GMDSS may be lost;
  2. e-navigation may not be mature enough, resulting in compromising GMDSS integrity;
  3. overlapping of e-navigation communications and the GMDSS may exist;  and
  4. tasks 11 (software quality) and 14 (data structure) might also be beneficial for the GMDSS review.


Terms of reference for a Correspondence Group on the Review of GMDSS, under the coordination of the USA were approved (reporting to NCSR2 by 19 December 2014) as also were those for the tenth meeting of the Joint IMO / ITU Expert Group on Maritime Radio-communication Matters to be held at IMO from 6 to 10 October 2014.


  • THE SAR WORKING GROUP.  Regarding ‘Actions Requested’ by the SAR WG, the Sub-Committee:


  1. endorsed a revised circular for approval by MSC regarding ‘Guidance on Cospass-Sarsat’ International 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database(IBRD);
  2. drew attention of Member States to the preferred cancellation procedure in case of  accidental activation of an EPIRB, and to note that this procedure will be incorporated in the 2016 edition of the IAMSAR manual;
  3. also drew attention to the possible measures to prevent a beacon’s transmission if it is not possible to switch the beacon off, again such a procedure to be incorporated in the 2016 edition of the IAMSAR manual;
  4. endorsed a draft revision of MSC.1/Circ. 1182 on Guide to recovery techniques for MSC approval;
  5. noted the benefits of initiatives on SAR cooperation and coordination, encouraging Member Governments to initiate and participate in exchange programmes for SAR Mission Coordinators;
  6. recalled the importance of MSC. 1/Circ. 1218 with respect to Guidance on exchange of medical information between telemedical assistance services (TMAS), in particular, the practice of medical information exchange during international SAR operations;
  7. tasked the JWG to undertake initial work in developing options to improve the exchange of information relevant to SAR;  and
  8. endorsed draft revisions to Volumes I, II and III of the IAMSAR Manual for approval by MSC 95 and their inclusion in the 2016 edition of the Manual.


  • GLOBAL SAR PLAN.  Information was provided by the Secretariat on the status of the Global SAR Plan as available in GISIS.  The Sub-Committee noted that the Plan has been updated by several Member Governments during the period between COMSAR 17 and NCSR1.  It was further noted that the status of the availability of SAR services changes day by day underlining the utmost importance of providing up to date information direct to GISIS.  This will enable Rescue Coordination Centres to act promptly and not loose precious time the moment they have to deal with a distress situation.


  • DEVELOPMENT OF MEASURES TO PROTECT THE SAFETY OF PERSONS RESCUED AT SEA.  The Sub-Committee noted that a second formal Regional Meeting on this subject due to be held on 18 April 2013 was postponed following a request for more time to be given for informal consultations between some of the parties concerned.  In the meanwhile, a boat carrying migrants from Libya to Italy sank off Lampedusa resulting in 360 deaths and 8 days later on 11 October 2013, another boat sank within the SAR region of Malta leading to a further 34 deaths.  Various meetings between the Member States involved have been held to progress work on a draft regional agreement and the Second Formal Regional Meeting is expected to be rescheduled within months.  A number of  countries in the Mediterranean are experiencing a huge increase in migration and another 100,000 to 150,000 migrants are forecast to arrive in Europe over the second part of this year.  Sadly coast guard and rescue vessels simply cannot deal with such large numbers needing to be rescued from the sea. Consequently, assistance from merchant vessels is being sought at short notice on a daily basis and this is causing a heavy (and unpredictable) burden upon the administrations and shipowners who of necessity become involved.


  • DEVELOPMENT OF A MANDATORY CODE FOR SHIPS OPERATING IN POLAR WATERS.  Having considered the outcome of MSC 93, in particular the issue of the scope of application of renumbered chapters 9 and 10 of the Polar Code, the Sub-Committee agreed:


  1. that the provisions of these chapters should apply only to new and existing ships certified in accordance with SOLAS Chapter I, in line with the rest of the Code, as agreed by MSC 93;  and
  2. that the application to other types and sizes of ships (ie. non-SOLAS ships) could be addressed in phase 2 of the Polar Code.


The remaining Polar Code matters were then referred to the SAR and Ships’ Routeing WGs for detailed consideration and advice.


The Sub-Committee approved the revised text provided by the SAR WG for a draft (renumbered) Chapter 10 for MSC’s consideration.  It also endorsed revisions to section 2.3 (Communications Equipment) of the Record of additional equipment and operational limitations for the Polar Ship Certificate for MSC consideration. Finally it endorsed the proposed guidance on Chapter 10 (Communication) for possible inclusion in part I-B of the Polar Code for MSC consideration.


Meanwhile, the Ships’ Routing WG revised the (renumbered) Chapter 9 of the Polar Code and this was duly approved by the Sub-Committee for MSC consideration.  Revisions to section 2.2 (Navigation equipment) of the Record of additional equipment and operational limitations for the Polar Ship Certificate were also endorsed for MSC consideration.


  • CONSIDERATION OF IACS UNIFIED INTERPRETATIONS.  The subject of ‘Pilot transfer arrangements’ (SOLAS regulation V/23.3.3) provided several lengthy debates.  It was recalled that NAV59, noting the length of the pilot boarding ladder should be calculated inclusive of a 15 degree adverse list, reiterated that when considering pilot transfer arrangements of any distance more than 9 metres above the surface of the water under any circumstances, a combination pilot boarding arrangement would be required, in accordance with existing SOLAS regulation V/  NAV59 had not agreed with the IACS unified interpretation (UI) on pilot transfer arrangements and requested IACS to reconsider its proposal.  IACS did so and submitted document NCSR1/24 which includes a recommended implementation date due to the fact that a change of the Pilot transfer design arrangement might be involved.  However, commenting on the revised UI tabled by IACS, IMPA expressed the view that the NAV59 decision did not propose a change of pilot transfer arrangements but merely confirmed a situation that had already existed for 40 years.  After much discussion, the Sub-Committee agreed with IMPA’s interpretation although the Chairman said that interested parties could make submissions to NCSR 2.  In the interim, the Secretariat was instructed to prepare a draft MSC circular containing the text as provided in the Annex to document NCSR 1/24, the IACS submission but deleting the words ‘installed on or after’, also the text in square brackets, including the brackets, and the footnote.  The paragraph (for MSC approval) now reads:


3. ‘Member Governments are invited to use the UIs provided in paragraphs 1 and 2 above as guidance when applying the relevant provisions of SOLAS regulation V23.3.3 for pilot transfer equipment and to bring them to the attention of all parties concerned.’


For the sake of completeness on this item, the paragraphs 1 and 2 referred to above, address two different and distinct arrangements, the former when only a pilot ladder is provided and the latter, when a combined arrangement of “an accommodation ladder used in conjunction with the pilot ladder” is necessary.




Captain Paddy McKnight                                                                                                        END


Leave a reply

©2022 InterManager - Promoting Excellence In Ship Management

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?