The IMO Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications, Search and Rescue held its 3rd Session (NCSR3) from Monday 29 February through Friday 4 March 2016 under the Chairmanship of Mr R Lakeman (NETHERLANDS) and his Vice Chair, Mr N Clifford (NEW ZEALAND) both of whom were subsequently re-elected for 2017.


Three Working Groups (WG) and one Drafting Group (DG) were formed and chaired as follows:


WG1 Navigation, Captain Moises de Gracia (PANAMA)
WG2 Communications, Mr A Schwarz (GERMANY)
WG3 Search and Rescue, Mr N Clifford (NEW ZEALAND)
DG1 MSI Guidance Documentation, Mr P Doherty (USA)


The meeting was attended by representatives from 93 Member Governments, 1 Associate Member of the IMO, 3 Representatives from the UN and Specialised Agencies, 6 Inter-Governmental Organisations and 26 Non-Governmental Organisations.


Items of particular interest to InterManager Members are as follows:


  • SECRETARY-GENERAL’S ADDRESS. The Secretary-General of IMO, Mr K Lim, welcomed delegates. During his short address, he repeated the theme that “Shipping connects buyers and sellers across the world, thus shipping and international trade have grown, hand in hand”. The topic of this year’s World Maritime Day, on Thursday 29 September at the IMO, “Shipping, indispensable to the World” is therefore particularly appropriate.


  • ROUTEING MEASURES AND MANDATORY SHIP REPORTING SYSTEMS.   The Sub-Committee agreed that endorsed corrections to TSSs in the existing routeing system “Off Friesland” and in the mandatory route for tankers from North Hinder to the German Bight should take immediate effect after approval by MSC. Approval with a view to MSC adoption was also given to:


  1. amending the existing TSS in the Approaches to Hook of Holland and at North Hinder;
  2. amending the existing TSS “At West Hinder”;
  3. establishing of new TSSs “Off Southwest Australia”;
  4. amending the existing TSS “in Bornholmsgat”;
  5. establishing a new TSS “In the Corsica Channel”;
  6. establishing a new two-way route in “approaches to the Schelde estuary” superseding the existing precautionary area “In the vicinity of Thornton and Bligh Banks”;
  7. establishing new routeing measures “In Windfarm Borssele”;
  8. amending the existing area to be avoided” off the coast of Ghana in the Atlantic Ocean” (although this was hotly disputed by Cote D’Ivoire);
  9. amending general provisions on ships routeing (resolution A5.72(14), as amended) on establishing multiple structures at sea; and
  10. interested parties to submit a proposal for a new output to the MSC on the development of a circular to address the protection of cable ships.


  • RECOGNITION OF GALILEO AS A COMPONENT OF THE WWRNS.   GALILEO will be recognised as a future component of the World Wide Radio-Navigation System (WWRNS) subject to availability of the EU funds post-2020 multi-annual financial framework, for a minimum of 20 years, with at least 6 years notice prior to any termination of operations. A notable feature will be a freely available global SAR service that will form a key element of the Cospas-Sarsat MEOSAR system. Satellites equipped with a transponder will be available to relay identified distress signals from maritime users to Rescue Coordination Centres (RCCs) with enhanced accuracy of distress beacon localisation.


  • ADDITIONAL MODULES TO THE REVISED PERFORMANCE STANDARDS FOR INTEGRATED NAVIGATION SYSTEMS (INS) RELATING TO HARMONISATION OF BRIDGE DESIGN AND DISPLAY OF INFORMATION.   Following a short debate in which it was recognised that more information is necessary, the Sub-Committee established a Correspondence Group on the Development of additional modules to the INS Performance standards, under the coordination of CHINA. Those interested in developing S-Mode, were also encouraged to participate given the interrelation between the INS modules likely to be produced and the future development of S-Mode.


  • ANALYSIS OF DEVELOPMENTS IN MARITIME RADIO COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS AND TECHNOLOGY.   WG2 was not able to reach a consensus on the comprehensive list of conditions which need to be fulfilled before the Iridium mobile satellite system could be recommended for final recognition in the GMDSS. MSC will be asked to clarify the scope of application of these performance standards, also Member States and international organisations were invited to submit proposals for the next session, NCSR 4. MSC will be invited to extend the relevant output on Performance Standards for ship-borne GMDSS equipment to accommodate additional providers of GMDSS satellite services for additional years (to 2017). The Sub-Committee approved terms of reference for an intersessional Correspondence Group (under USA coordination) on the modernisation of GMDSS, whilst also adjusting the terms of reference for the twelfth meeting of the joint IMO / ITU Experts Group from 11 – 15 July 2016.


  • UPDATING OF THE GMDSS MASTER PLAN AND GUIDELINES ON MSI (MARITIME SAFETY INFORMATION) PROVISIONS.   The Sub-committee endorsed the Drafting Groups proposed amendments to the revised edition of the SafetyNet Manual and also to the revised edition of the NAVTEX Manual. The Secretariat was instructed to prepare the associated draft of MSC Circulars for consideration and approval by the Committee.


  • MEASURES TO PROTECT THE SAFETY OF PERSONS RESCUED AT SEA.   The Sub-Committee welcomed news of the second edition “Large Scale rescue operations at sea: Guidance on ensuring the safety and security of seafarers and rescued persons”, noting that ICS and co-sponsors wished it to remain a live document, suitably updated.


  • REPORT OF THE SAR WORKING GROUP (WG3).   The Sub-Committee received and considered WG3’s report and approved it in general. In particular; it:


  1. requested Member States to bring information on the existence of the ICAO Asia / Pacific SAR Plan to the attention of SAR maritime authorities;
  2. noted JWG support for the United States to continue R&D work on alternatives to Pyrotechnic Distress Signals;
  3. noted that the JWG had concluded that the definition of “rescue” should remain unchanged;
  4. noted JWG agreement on the need for continued awareness by SAR services and technical regulations on the increasing number of survivor locating systems (an increasing number of which are unregulated), to ensure that the SAR system is protected and remains fully functional;
  5. encouraged IMO Member States to have their maritime SAR authority established and maintain close liaison with their civil aviation authority counterpart as ICAO continues implementation of its GADSS (Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System) CONOP (Concept of Operation) on the sequence of events before and after an accident;
  6. encouraged Member States, SAR services and others to test the vessel TRIAGE method and provide feedback to FINLAND. TRIAGE basically provides a common platform to assess the seriousness of a vessel’s safety situation and facilitates decision-making regarding search and rescue; and
  7. noted WG3 discussion regarding the “Guidelines for preparing plans for cooperation between SAR services and passenger ships. The system for distributing SAR plans for cooperation works well for ships operating on fixed routes but the converse is not the case for vessels operating across multiple SAR regions. JWG23 was thus requested to further consider this matter, including development of draft amendments to MSC//Circ.1079.


  • PILOT TRANSFER ARRANGEMENTS (SOLAS regulation V/23.33).   The Sub-Committee agreed proposed amendments to MSC.1/Circ.1495 as follows:

“1. SOLAS regulation V/ prescribes an operational instruction that limits the climb to not more than 9m on a single ladder regardless of the trim or list of the ship”.


  • REPORT ON MONITORING OF ECDIS ISSUES BY IHO.   IHO reported that the ENC/ECDIS Data Presentation and Performance Check results had indicated a continuing improvement in the updating of ECDIS software and no new issues have been identified. IHO also stressed that the ENC/ECDIS Data Presentation and Performance Check for ships, was designed to provide warning that ECDIS equipment software might need upgrading. However, it is not suitable for use in checking the implementation of ECDIS carriage requirements. Following on from this, the Sub-Committee agreed to an extension of the 1 year transition period proposed for Entry Into Force of new ECDIS systems of 31 August 2017 as recommended by IHO.


This will enable shipowners and operators to update existing systems in accordance with the guidance concerning the maintenance of ECDIS software contained in MSC.1/Circ.1503.

Following on from this, views were expressed that an annual performance check for ECDIS could result in issues being unaddressed for periods of up to twelve months which could perhaps be resolved by automated processes. Most importantly, it was agreed that the apparent and inappropriate use of the ENC/ECDIS Data Presentation and Performance Check by port State control should be brought to the attention of MSC and the III Sub-Committee.


  • PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT OF NEW GISIS MODULES ON MAS AND GMDSS.   The Sub-Committee agreed to Secretariat initiatives, renaming the current GISIS COMSAR module as the “Global SAR Plan” module; the development of a new GISIS module on Maritime Assistance Services, replacing the existing MSC.5 circular; and the development of a new GISIS module on shore-based facilities for the GMDSS, replacing the existing GMDSS.1 circular.


  • DATE OF NEXT MEETING. NCSR4 6 – 10 February 2017.


Captain Paddy McKnight


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