The IMO Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue held its 5th Session (NCSR 5) from Monday 19 through Friday 23 February 2018.  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 2019.  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 LRIT, Mr P Giovanni (BRAZIL)


The meeting was attended by representatives from 77 Member States, 1 Associate Member of IMO, 2 UN and Specialised Agencies, 5 Inter-Governmental Organisations and 29 Non-Governmental Organisations.


Items of particular interest to InterManager members are as follows:


ADDRESS BY SECRETARY-GENERAL.  The Secretary General welcomed delegates to the fifth session of the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue.  He then took the opportunity to say a few words about this year’s World Maritime Day theme, which is “IMO 70: Our heritage – better shipping for a better future” and which will be celebrated at IMO Headquarters on 27 September whilst the parallel event will be organised by the Government of Poland.  He also mentioned that the closing date for submission of nominations for the 2018 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea is 16 April 2018.  Highlighting a few key issues on the agenda of NCSR 5, top of his list was consideration of the first draft of the revision of SOLAS chapters III and IV plus related instruments, pursuant on approval of the GMDSS Modernisation Plan approved last year.  He next emphasised the importance of moving forward with the work on the development and implementation of e-navigation.  A further important item on the agenda he considered to be the technical and operational assessment of the Inmarsat Fleet Broadband Maritime Safety Data Service for use in the GMDSS, as well as assessment of the remaining requirements of the Iridium mobile satellite system, a future GMDSS service provider.  Other important issues before the sub-Committee in his view included: ships’ routeing measures; LRIT; regional and global navigation satellite systems; consequential work related to the Polar Code; and, amendments to the IAMSAR Manual, to name just a few.  


ROUTEING MEASURES AND MANDATORY SHIP REPORTING SYSTEMS.  Following discussion in Plenary, an ‘Experts Group’ (EG) was convened with appropriate terms of reference.  In consideration of the EG’s subsequent report, the Sub-Committee approved it in general, and in particular, with a view to adoption by the Committee where appropriate:


  1. Approved establishment of a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) and associated measures in Dangan Channel (Pearl River Estuary), also the Kattegat (DENMARK/SWEDEN);
  2. Approved amendments to the existing areas to be avoided off the coast of GHANA in the Atlantic Ocean;
  3. Approved establishment of a precautionary area Dangan Channel No. 2 with recommended directions of traffic flow;
  4. Approved establishment of deep-water routes, recommended routes and a precautionary area in the vicinity of Kattegat;
  5. Approved establishment of two-way routes, precautionary areas and areas to be avoided in the Bering Sea and Bering Strait;
  6. Agreed implementation dates for the new routeing measures, namely 1 July 2020 for those related to the Kattegat and all others 6 months after their adoption by MSC;
  7. Invited Member States concerned, to review the adopted mandatory reporting systems in the interest of reducing the reporting burden of ships by utilising automated ship reporting by electronic means;
  8. Invited Member States already committed to voluntarily submission for initial review, to do so at least 6 months in advance of the next session;
  9. Encouraged the international shipping community to actively participate in discussions relating to wildlife and environmental protection which impact on the sea routes being used for international trade; and
  10. Urged Member States when submitting proposals on matters of the Marine Environment and Wild Life, to consider approaching MEPC with a view to establishing PSSA and its associated protective measures, if appropriate.


UPDATES TO THE LRIT SYSTEM.  Three documents submitted by IMSO (International Mobile Satellite Organisation) provided the basis for Plenary discussion after which a Drafting Group (DG) was formed whose primary purpose was to prepare draft amendments on LRIT Technical Documentation and consider cost implications.  The Sub-Committee subsequently approved the DG report in general, and in particular:


  1. Endorsed draft amendments to MSC.1/Circ.1259/Rev.7 and MSC.1/Circ.1294/Rev 5 on LRIT Technical documentation (Parts I and II, respectively), including the XML schemas and additional test cases and procedures for LRIT Data Centres and the International Data Exchange;
  2. Noted the discussions on cost implications of implementing a new Archived SURPIC request message;
  3. Noted that modification testing will be required and agreed to postpone implementation so that it can be executed together with future proposed amendments in a new modification test phase;
  4. Agreed to establish a deadline of 2 years for implementation of these amendments to the Circulars, including modification testing if there are no further amendments;
  5. Agreed that the related revised versions of the two Circulars be published when the third modification testing phase is conducted;
  6. Agreed to limit the number of Archives SURPIC requests to a maximum of three requests per day by an LRIT data user and also to limit the timeframe for such requests to a limit of 6 months backwards;  and
  7. Noted the Group’s opinion that Data Centres should make careful use of this new feature as it could have a financial impact on operators that opt to request the Archived SURPIC over large areas and extended periods of time.


NAVIGATION WORKING GROUP.  Following discussion in Plenary of 4 agenda items related to navigation (navigation information received via communications equipment, S-mode MSPs and SIP), WG1 was established.  After 3 days of deliberation, the group submitted a lengthy report which the Sub-Committee approved in general, and in particular:


  1. Noted the discussion on the development of Interim guidelines for the display of navigation information received via communications equipment and endorsed the guidelines together with a draft MSC Circular for approval by the Committee;
  2. Noted the discussion on development of Guidelines on standardised modes of operation, S-mode, and that their completion will require consequential revision to SN.1/Circ.243/Rev.1. This will be undertaken by an intersessional correspondence group, co-ordinated by AUSTRALIA;
  3. Noted the progress made on developing draft Guidance on the definition and harmonisation of the format and structure of maritime services within the MARITIME Service Portfolio (MSP) and agreed to retain the template for MS descriptions in the draft Guidance. Note was also taken of the VTS services description developed by IALA, using a draft template which will serve as a good example and tool for other domain coordinating bodies.  They will be invited to submit the description of maritime services under their remit, using the draft template, to the next (second) meeting of HGDM (Harmonisation Group on Data Modelling) for which meeting terms of reference were agreed by the Sub-Committee.  The need to establish a robust future process for the review of the received description of maritime services, using the templates, after finalisation of the Guidance was also acknowledged. Finally HGDM 2 was instructed to consider the development of a sustainable continuous review process, without substantive involvement of organs of the Organisation (IMO);  and
  4. Agreed to an updated IMO e-navigation Strategy Implementation Plan (SIP) in which the priority accorded to each e-navigation task is indicated and to forward the draft updated SIP to MSC for approval as an MSC Circular.



COMMUNICATIONS WORKING GROUP.  Item 11 on the agenda referred to Revision of SOLAS Chapters III and IV for modernisation of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), including related and consequential amendments to other existing instruments.  Plenary discussions covered a number of related subjects such as the report of the thirteenth meeting of the Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group, report of the CG on Modernisation of GMDSS, preliminary revision of SOLAS Chapters III and IV, EPIRBS, alignment of terminology and requirements for SARTS also amendment to existing instruments other than SOLAS.  Terms of reference were formulated for WG2 which also included ITU matters, and developments in GMDSS Satellite Services.  On considering their subsequent report, the Sub-Committee approved it in general, and in particular:


  1. Noted progress made on related and consequential amendments to existing instruments other than SOLAS, and approved the work plan for same;
  2. Noted the draft categorisation of some existing instruments other than SOLAS which could be helpful for the work of the Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group;
  3. Noted the progress on discussions related to the revision of SOLAS Chapters III and IV. These include Radio life-saving appliances, EPIRBs, secondary ship-to-shore distress alert in Sea area A1, functional requirements including urgency and safety communications, security related communications and non-GMDSS functional requirements;
  4. Approved terms of reference for the CG on the modernisation of the GMDSS;
  5. Invited SOLAS Contracting Governments and international organisations to submit documents on new agenda items for future WRCs to the 14th meeting of the Joint IMO/ITU Expert Group;
  6. Noted the draft IMO position on WRC-19 agenda items relating to Maritime Services;
  7. Approved the terms of reference for the 14th meeting of the Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group;
  8. Approved a liaison statement to ITU-R WP 5B autonomous radio devices; and
  9. Approved a draft MSC resolution on Statement of Recognition of Maritime Satellite Services provided by Inmarsat Global Ltd, forwarding it to MSC for adoption.


DEVELOPMENTS IN GMDSS SATELLITE SERVICES .  The Sub-Committee considered IMSO’s annual report on Inmarsat’s public service obligations for the provision of recognised mobile satellite communication services in the GMDSS covering the year ending 1 November 2016.  The Sub-Committee noted that Inmarsat Global Ltd had continued to provide fully operational maritime mobile satellite distress and safety communication services for GMDSS thus fulfilling its obligations.  It was noted that closure of Inmarsat-B services took place on 11 January 2017 whilst it is intended to close the F 77 service by 1 December 2020.  IMSO provided information related to the planned migration of the recognised services from the Inmarsat-3 satellite constellation to that of Inmarsat-4.  During the ensuing discussion, concerns were expressed by many delegations regarding the short notice and aggressive schedule for the intended migration which would leave insufficient time for the preparation of amendments to related instruments (including SafetyNET Manual, GMDSS Master Plan, IAMSAR Manual, NTMs, MSIPs, MRCCs and other stakeholders).  To help offset this, a ‘Notice to Mariners’ will be prepared by IHO, including a step-by-step procedure, to be distributed among national Hydrographic Offices, explaining the impact and action to be taken on board ships when encountering challenges to make a connection with the 1-4 satellites.  .


RECOGNITION OF THE IRIDIUM MOBILE SATELLITE SYSTEM FOR USE IN GMDSS.    A prolonged and somewhat vexatious discussion took place in Plenary on this matter.  It was recalled that MSC 96 had endorsed the view that Iridium could be incorporated into the GMDSS, subject to compliance with the outstanding issues, based on evaluation reports from IMSO.   In its subsequent assessment report, IMSO pronounced satisfaction that Iridium had indeed complied with the remaining requirements for recognition to the extent applicable to non-geostationary satellite systems.  However, this view was not shared by all delegations who felt that the Iridium constellation should be fully operational and tested before recognition, also pointing out that shore-to-ship broadcasting of MSI and distress alerts, relays and calls had not been tested.  Further, the way in which network availability had been calculated was not very clear.  So, despite a 3 / 4 hour debate, there was an impasse resulting in the Chairman inviting Member States and international organisations to submit proposals on the matter to the Committee (MSC) as appropriate.


REPORT OF THE SEARCH AND RESCUE WORKING GROUP.   The terms of reference given to the SAR WG comprised consideration of 4 agenda items encompassing developments in GMDSS satellite services, EPIRBS, SAR Procedures and Training matters, also amendments to the IAMSAR manual.  Following WG3’s deliberations and publication of its report, the Sub-Committee approved it in general, and in particular:


  1. Invited Member States to upgrade their individual national beacon registration databases to accommodate the registration requirements for second generation beacons and the RLS (Return Link Services), as appropriate;
  2. Noted the information provided on the status of the Cospas-Sarsat Programme and requested further views and proposals from Member States;
  3. Reminded Member States of the need to take regulatory action and raise awareness of the safety hazard caused by LED obstacle lighting not being detectable by night vision devices;
  4. Approved a provisional agenda for the 25th Session of the ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group on harmonisation of Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue;
  5. Noted the concerns with flight management system (FMS) used on-board aircraft not complying with IAMSAR Manual principles and agreed terminology, inviting proposals on international standards necessary for software used for search patterns in aircraft FMS;
  6. Invited JWG-25 to further consider the draft resolution A.810(19) as developed by WG 3;
  7. Invited the Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group to consider the performance standard/methodology presented in RTCM STANDARD 1100.4 for 406 MHz distress alert signal and the AIS locating signal to the same device;
  8. Noted that several Member States are planning tests on a 121.5 MHz reduced duty cycle plus consequences of the potential change, and encouraged completion of their planned testing programmes in order to submit the results to JWG 25 for further consideration;
  9. Will ask the Committee to extend the target completion year of the output ‘Revised performance standards for EPIRBs operation on 406 MHz (resolution A.810(19)’  to include Cospas-Sorsat MEOSAR and second generation beacons’,  to 2019;  and
  10. Endorsed draft amendments to the IAMSAR Manual, requesting the MSC to approve them for inclusion in the 2019 edition of the Manual.


FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROVISION OF GLOBAL MARITIME SAR SERVICES.  Information provided by the Secretariat on the status of the Global SAR Plan as available in the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) was noted, also that the Plan had been updated between NCRS 4 and this session.  It was further noted that the status of availability of SAR services change daily and therefore, providing updated information directly into GISIS was of the utmost importance as it enables Rescue Coordination Centres to act promptly without losing time when dealing with a distress situation.  With regard to Area Search and Rescue Plans, the Sub-Committee was reminded that Parties to the 1979 Convention had the obligation to ensure that sufficient SRRs were established within each sea area and that these SRRs should be agreed among Parties concerned.  In this regard, the Secretariat is preparing a modification to the Global SAR Plan module by adding the ability for Member States to notify any agreements or arrangements by directly uploading a copy of those documents.

REVISION OF IMO MODEL COURSE 3.14 SAR MISSION COORDINATOR (IAMSAR MANUAL VOLUME II).  It was recalled that NCSR 4 had decided to revise model course 3.14 on SAR Mission Coordinator, identified the course developers, and established a Review Group (NCSR 4/29).  The Secretariat has received the first draft of the revised model course 3.14, which will be forwarded to the Review Group by 30 April 2018.

CORRESPONDENCE GROUPS ESTABLISHED AT THIS SESSION.  The Sub-Committee established correspondence group on the following subjects:

  1. Modernisation of the GMDSS;
  2. Guidelines on standardised modes of operation, S-mode; and
  3. Consequential work related to the Polar Code.


INTERSESSIONAL MEETINGS.   Having noted the intersessional meetings to take place in 2018, the Sub-Committee will invite the Committee to authorise the holding in 2019 of:


  1. The 15th meeting of the Joint IMO/ITU Expert Group; and
  2. The 26th session of the ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group


WORKLOAD OF THE SUB-COMMITTEE.  In view of the extremely heavy workload of the Sub-Committee subsequent to merging the NAV and COMSAR Sub-Committees in 2014, caused by the number of agenda items, the limitations for establishment of working, expert and drafting groups, also the impact on the efficiency of work and the allocation of time for appropriate discussions, it was decided to consult Council at its next meeting as to how the situation might be alleviated.  The length of this summary report bears witness to the huge scope and diversity of NCSR’s work, undoubtedly the heaviest of all IMO’s Sub-Committees.


ECDIS ISSUES.  The Sub-Committee noted the information contained in document NCSR 5/22 (Secretariat) on the work undertaken by III 4 (Implementation of International Instruments) on work to address the issue of non-compliant ECDIS using outdated editions of specifications from the port State control (PSC) perspective.  Having noted that some ECDIS manufacturers still needed to upgrade their systems, III 4 agreed to issue III 2/Circ.2 on ‘Action to be taken by port States on the required updates of ECDIS’.  Since then, the level of compliance has risen to such an extent (and no new issues on anomalies have been identified recently), that given the deadline of the ECDIS updates was 31 August 2017, there now exists a need to revoke circular III 2/Circ.2.  Following inputs by CIRM, IHO and ICS, it was decided to recommend that III 5 considered such revocation of the Circular as from 1 July 2018 and then invite the Committee to endorse such action.


DATE OF NEXT MEETING.  Prospective date of next meeting is 21 – 25 January 2019.


Captain Paddy McKnight


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