The IMO Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue held its 4th Session (NCSR 4) from Monday 6 through Friday 10 March 2017.  Mr R. Lakeman (NETHERLANDS) took the Chair together with his Vice Chair, Mr N Clifford (NEW ZEALAND), both of whom were subsequently re-elected for 2018.  Three Working Groups (WG), one Experts Group (EG) and one Drafting Group (DG) were formed and chaired as follows:


  • WG1 Navigation, Captain M De Gracia (PANAMA)
  • WG2 Communications, Mr A Schwarz (GERMANY)
  • WG3 Search and Rescue, Mr N Clifford (NEW ZEALAND)
  • EG1 Ships’ Routeing, Mr G Detweiler (USA)
  • DG1 GMDSS Modernisation Plan, Mr B Markle (USA)


The meeting was attended by representatives from 85 Member States, 1 Associate Member of IMO, 3 UN and Specialised Agencies, 6 Inter-Governmental Organisations and 26 Non-Governmental Organisations.


Items of particular interest to InterManager members are as follows:


  • ADDRESS BY SECRETARY-GENERAL. In welcoming delegates, the Secretary General referred to this year’s World Maritime Day theme, ‘Connecting Ships, Ports and People’.   The theme builds on that of 2016, ‘Shipping: indispensable to the world’, by assisting Member States to develop and implement maritime strategies that invest in a joined-up, interagency approach to address a range of issues.  These include facilitation of maritime transport, increasing efficiency, navigational safety, protection of the marine environment and maritime security.  He expressed a belief that the theme will provide a good opportunity to improve cooperation between ports and ships and help develop a closer partnership between the two sectors.  This would raise global standards and set norms for the safety, security and efficiency of ports whilst standardising port operational procedures through identifying and developing best practice guidance and training materials.  He went on to assert that operational aspects related to navigation and communications are important components in ensuring safety of navigation, particularly in busy shipping approaches to ports, as well as the safety of human life at sea and ashore.  In this respect the modernisation of GMDSS and implementation of e-navigation assume particular significance.  Professional and comprehensive consideration of all technical matters related to these aspects is thus a principal objective of the NCSR Sub-Committee, together with development of necessary amendments to relevant conventions and other instruments.


The Secretary-General concluded his welcoming address by emphasising the particular importance of key issues within NCSR 4’s agenda, namely the:


  1. Modernisation Plan of the GMDSS;
  2. Development and implementation of e-navigation; and
  3. Introduction of additional providers of GMDSS satellite services.


  • ROUTEING MEASURES AND MANDATORY SHIP REPORTING SYSTEMS. MSC 97, at the request of NCSR 3, authorised NCSR 4 to establish an Experts Group on ships’ routeing in addition to the Navigation Working Group.  In examining the Experts Group report, the Sub-Committee:


  1. approved amendments to the existing Long Sand Head two-way route and SUNK Inner precautionary area in the traffic separation scheme ‘In the SUNK area and in the Northern approaches in the Thames Estuary’;
  2. approved the establishment of a new recommended route ‘Off the western coast of Izu O Shima Island’, Japan;
  3. approved the establishment of a new area to be avoided (ATBA) ‘off Peninsula de Osa’ on the Pacific coast off Costa Rica;
  4. invited Costa Rica to consider establishing ships’ routeing measures nationally within the Golfo Dulce if deemed necessary after implementation of the ABTA ‘Off Peninsula de Osa’ if adopted, within the remit as a coastal State;
  5. approved the establishment of a new ATBA for the ‘Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) in the Sulu Sea’, Philippines;  and
  6. endorsed the view that, where the primary objective of a submission to the Expert Group is environmental, it should first be sent to MEPC before submitting such a proposal on ships’ routeing measures to the NCSR.


  • UPDATES TO THE LRIT SYSTEM. The Sub-Committee noted that:


  1. no major issues have been reported to the functioning and operation of the DDP (Data Distribution Plan) server and the IDF (Information Distribution Facility) since NCSR 3, also, the annual disaster recovery exercise of the DDP server was satisfactorily conducted;
  2. endorsed temporary establishment of a new Modified testing environment for the second modification testing phase of the LRIT system;
  3. noted that Transport Layer Security (TLS) version 1-2, the current industry standard, has been implemented; and
  4. changes to the periodic rate of transmission of LRIT information should be made and tested by interested DCs (Data Centres) and results reported back to a later session of the Sub-Committee.


  • NAVIGATION WORKING GROUP. A number of agenda items were referred to the Navigation WG whose conclusions / recommendations on each item were actioned by the Sub-Committee as follows:


  1. agreed to ‘Revised Guidelines and criteria for ship reporting systems for adoption by MSC 98;
  2. endorsed a draft MSC circular on ‘Guidelines for shipborne Position, Navigation and Timing data processing’;
  3. agreed to establish a Correspondence Group on development of the Guidelines for the harmonised display of navigation information received via communications equipment with a target completion year of 2018;
  4. endorsed draft ‘Revised Guidelines and criteria for ship reporting systems;
  5. noted a proposed way forward to strengthen efforts in harmonising and prioritising work undertaken in relation to e-navigation;
  6. encouraged international organisations involved in progressing work on e-navigation to provide an update on their progress to IMO;
  7. endorsed draft Unified Interpretations on the application of COLREG with respect to the placement of sidelights and agreed that an amendment to the COLREGS would provide a better long-term solution; and
  8. recommended to MSC, the Groups’ proposal to activate the IMO/IHO Harmonisation Group on Data Modelling (HGDM) and invited inputs to the work plan for its proposed first meeting from 16 to 20 October 2017. Most notably, this would specify the architecture, implementation and management of the Common Maritime Data Structure (CMDS) necessary to support MSPs (Maritime Service Portfolios), taking into account e-navigation needs, including data streaming, as well as current and future communication means.


  • DRAFT MODERNISATION PLAN OF THE GLOBAL MARITIME DISTRESS AND SAFETY SYSTEM (GMDSS). In considering the report of the Drafting Group on GMDSS, the Sub-Committee:


  1. endorsed the GMDSS draft Modernisation Plan for approval by MSC;
  2. endorsed the proposal for a new output on the revision of SOLAS chapters III and IV for Modernisation of the GMDSS, including related and consequential amendments to other existing instruments, for inclusion in the 2018-2019 NCSR biennial agenda; and
  3. approved draft terms of reference for a Correspondence Group on the modernisation of the GMDSS.


In addition to this excellent work by the drafting group, the Communications Working Group was tasked to finalise the draft performance standards for shipborne GMDSS equipment to accommodate additional providers of GMDSS satellite services.  However, the WG recorded that certain issues need to be resolved before adopting a new resolution on performance standards for a ship earth station for use in GMDSS.  This essentially amounted to the date of application of new standards i.e. whether it should be the date of adoption of the new resolution (16 June 2017) or the date of entrance of new amendments to SOLAS chapter IV (1 January 2020), also whether it should include dates currently referred to in resolution MSC.130(75), for equipment manufactured earlier than this date.  Notwithstanding, a relevant MSC resolution was drafted and will be forwarded to MSC 98 which meets on 7 June 2017.


  • COMMUNICATIONS WORKING GROUP. In addition to its work on GMDSS, the Communications WG was tasked to look at several other issues and in considering the WG’s report, the Sub-Committee:


  1. endorsed a revised draft amendment to SOLAS Chapter IV which will accommodate additional mobile satellite services;
  2. endorsed a revised draft amendment to the appendix to the SOLAS Convention, related to Certificates; and
  3. endorsed the view that liaison statements received from ITU should be included in the agenda of the upcoming meeting of the Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group and also approved draft terms of reference for same.


  • MEASURES TO PROTECT THE SAFETY OF PERSONS RESCUED AT SEA. Rather surprisingly, there were no submissions on this item.  However, it was recalled that NCSR 3 had noted information provided by ICS on the second edition of ‘Large scale rescue operations at sea:  Guidance on ensuring the safety and security of seafarers and rescued persons’ and decreed that the Guidance should remain a live document for as long as required, suitably promulgated and updated by the industry co-sponsors.  FAL 40 communicated word of a new inter-agency platform sharing on migrant smuggling by sea, and has encouraged Member States to provide timely and accurate information on such incidents, also on suspected smugglers and vessels to IMO via the facilitation module in GISIS.  It was recognised that the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean is far from being resolved.


  • SEARCH AND RESCUE WORKING GROUP. Having tasked the SAR WG to review a large number of agenda items and submit a customary report to Plenary, the Sub-Committee took action as follows:


  1. noted information provided by the Cospas-Sarsat Secretariat on the International 406-MHZ beacon registration database (IBRD) which will be undergoing a comprehensive redevelopment shortly. The IBRD is available at no cost to users lacking access to national registration facilities or who wish to upload their national records to the IBRD to ensure 24/7 access for RCCs;
  2. encouraged Member States to lend support to non-responsive SAR Points of Contact (SPOC) in their region with a view to improving the Cospas-Sarsat system;
  3. inform Member States of a model agreement available on the Cospas-Sarsat website which could be used in improving and clarifying the relationship between a SPOC and an MCC;
  4. note the USA’s invitation to interested parties in providing comments, inputs and sponsorship of a revised EPIRB performance standard for submission of a joint proposal to NCSR 5;
  5. noted comments on the need for further operational testing results by all parties for EPIRBs operating on 406 MHZ before adopting revised performance standards and sharing the results at the forthcoming Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting prior to reporting at NCSR 5;
  6. urged all Member States to provide relevant information in the Global SAR Plan module of GISIS, keeping it updated, particularly including Points of Contact for Search and Rescue within both GISIS and Cospas-Sarsat databases;
  7. urged Member States and organisations to involve their maritime SAR experts in functions, meetings and other relevant events with a view to enhancing the development and implementation of joint initiatives taken by IMO, ICAO and Cospas-Sarsat;
  8. accepted the need to explore reliable and practical ways to solicit better SAR input into GISIS, in which currently, information is rarely complete and up to date;
  9. recommended that Member States encourage the use of IMRF as a resource to improve dissemination of lessons learned;
  10. drew attention of Member States to the risks associated with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) used in emergency equipment, navigation aids and obstruction lighting, some of which are not detectable by night vision equipment’;
  11. approved a provisional agenda for the next JWG session;
  12. approved the revised SAR.7 circular on ‘the list of documents and publications which should be held by a Maritime or Joint Rescue Coordination Centre’;
  13. to forward proposed amendments of the IAMSAR Manual to the next session of the JWG for consideration and inclusion in the 2019 edition of the Manual;
  14. endorsed the proposed revised MSC/Circ.1079 on Guidelines for preparing cooperation plans between SAR services and passenger ships (i.a.w. SOLAS Regulation V/7.3); and
  15. approved proposed Terms of Reference for the revision of Model Course 3.14 on SAR Mission Coordinator and to appoint NEW ZEALAND as the Review Group coordinator whilst inviting other interested parties to contribute to the revision of the model course.


  • BIENNIAL STATUS REPORT. The Sub-Committee agreed to the biennial status report and the proposed provisional agenda for NCSR 5.  A notable total of 9 planned outputs were successfully completed at the session which, according to the Director of the Marine Safety Division is a record number for any sub-Committee.


  • DEVELOPMENT OF GUIDANCE ON S MODE OF OPERATION OF NAVIGATION EQUIPMENT. The Sub-Committee noted with appreciation the information provided by AUSTRALIA, the REPUBLIC OF KOREA, InterManager and the Nautical Institute in their submission NCSR 4/INF.8 on the development of guidance on the Standardised (or S) Mode of operation of navigation equipment.


  • REPORT ON MONITORING OF ECDIS ISSUES. Information provided by IHO pertaining to the outcome of the continuing monitoring of ECDIS issues indicated welcome progress made with ENC surveys.  It was further noted that the ENC / ECDIS Data Presentation and Performance Check results indicated a continuing improvement in the updating of ECDIS software and that no new issues have been identified.  As to the merits of revising MSC.1/Circ.1503, as amended, on ECDIS – ‘Guidance for good practice in connection with the possible development of PSC guidelines on ECDIS’, it was noted that HTW 4 has revised the ‘ECDIS Training’ section – Guidance for good practice, with a view to approval by MSC 98.  In addition, HTW 4 issued STCW.7/Circ.24 on ‘Interim Guidance for Parties, Administrations, port State control authorities, recognised organisations and other relevant parties on the requirement under the STCW Convention, 1978, as amended,  addressing guidance to PSC authorities in relation to the training and familiarisation provisions for ECDIS.  Following discussion, the Sub-Committee decided not to take any further action on this issue.


  • CONSEQUENTIAL WORK RELATED TO THE NEW POLAR CODE. Following a fairly lengthy discussion the Sub-Committee established a Correspondence Group, under the coordination of GERMANY with a view to:


  1. developing a work plan listing all performance and test standards, also any other requirements in need of revision;
  2. including the evaluation of specific additional conditions, as required, to be considered when approving navigation and communication equipment for use when navigating in polar waters;
  3. considering interim solutions to address important matters, in order to assist Member States on short notice;
  4. considering alternative ways to address the work, such as the development of a separate consolidated performance standard, development of add-ons to existing performance standards, or a resolution; and
  5. submitting a report to NCSR 5 for consideration.


  • DATE OF NEXT MEETING. The fifth session of the NCSR Sub-Committee has been tentatively scheduled to take place from 19 to 23 February 2018.


Captain Paddy McKnight                                                                                                    End


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