The IMO Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue held its 6th Session (NCSR 6) from Monday 16 through Friday 25 January 2019.  The format of the meeting differed from that of previous NCSR meetings in that, given the excessive workload resulting from the coalescence of the three disciplines (N, C & SAR) in one body, Council decided, as an experiment, to extend the meeting length to eight working days.  This was achieved by working in Plenary for the first three days, informal groups convening over the week-end and official working groups meeting for the following three days.  The penultimate day was given over to translation of WG reports into the working languages and the final one, sitting in Plenary during which all reports were put under the spotlight.   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 2020.  Three Working Groups (WG) and one Experts Group (EG) were formed and chaired as follows:


  • WG1 Navigation, Mr S Chung (HONG KONG CHINA)
  • WG2 Communications, Mr A Schwarz (GERMANY)
  • WG3 Search and Rescue, Mr N Clifford (NEW ZEALAND)
  • EG1 Ships’ Routeing, Mr J Brouwers (NETHERLANDS)

The meeting was attended by representatives from 80 Member States, 1 Associate Member of IMO, 2 UN and Specialised Agencies, 5 Inter-Governmental Organisations and 27 Non-Governmental Organisations.

Items of particular interest to InterManager members are as follows:

ADDRESS BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL.  The Secretary General welcomed delegates to the sixth session of the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue.  Having commented that 2018 had been busy but very productive, he chose to say a few words about this year’s World Maritime Day [WMD] theme, which is “Empowering women in the maritime community”, stressing the  opportunity to support the participation of women in both shore-based and sea-going work, in line with Strategic Direction Goal 5. WMD will be celebrated at IMO HQ on 26 September and the parallel event will be organised by the Government of Colombia.  He next reminded delegates that nominations for the 2019 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea will remain open until 15 April 2019.

Turning to some key issues to be discussed at the meeting, he highlighted the need for draft amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV plus related instruments in considering the GMDSS Modernisation Plan which will enable the new GMDSS provisions to enter into force in 2024.  He next emphasised the importance of moving forward with work on the development and implementation of e-navigation for which there are three related outputs on the agenda, in particular, standardised modes of operation, S-mode.  With respect to intersessional work, he expressed pleasure in noting the development of draft general guidance for navigation and navigation equipment intended for use on ships operating in polar waters for completion at this session.

Rounding off his address, Mr Lim stressed the importance of finalising the draft IMO position on matters relating to maritime services for the next World Radiocommunication Conference of ITU, scheduled to take place in November this year.

REPORT OF THE SAR WORKING GROUP.  WG3 was instructed by the Sub-Committee to take into account decisions, comments and proposals made in Plenary  in respect of considering developments related to GMDSS satellite services.  They were also instructed to examine the guidelines on harmonised aeronautical and maritime search and rescue procedures, including SAR training matters, then reporting the results of their deliberations.  This was duly done following which the Sub-Committee approved their report in general, and in particular :


  1. Noted the information on the status of the Cospas-Sarsat Programme (Space System for Search of Distress Vessels-SAR Satellite-aided Tracking) and Invited interested Member States and international organisations to provide inputs on the specification of the IBRD (International Beacon Registration Database) to Cospas-Sarsat . Member States were also invited to improve MCC-SPOC (Maritime Coordination Centre-SAR Point of Contacts) communications during tests through training and education in preparation for real alerts and finally, encouraged those not using the IBRD to ensure that their national databases are able to register Second-Generation beacons;
  2. Encouraged Member State RCCs (Regional Coordination Centres) to provide feedback to GMDSS satellite service providers on RCC actions relating to an alert message received and instruct the JWG (ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group) to develop related guidance;
  3. Endorsed the WG’s decision that only the safety of, or threat to, a person or persons should be taken into account when declaring SAR emergency phases , informing the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation);
  4. Noted that phase definition of an emergency might impact on the regulatory scoping exercise exploring the use of maritime autonomous surface ships;
  5. Noted the potential to use the Cospas-Sarsat’s ground data distribution system to distribute digital distress alerts from other GMDSS-approved satellite service providers, and invited continued investigation to explore this possibility;
  6. Agreed to refer two new maritime search and rescue patterns plus flow chart that might be incorporated into the IAMSAR (International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue) Manual, to JWG 26;
  7. Validated the draft revised model course 3.14 on SAR Mission Coordinator and approved terms of reference for the course developers and review groups of Model Course 3.13 on SAR administration and 3.15 on SAR on-scene coordinator;
  8. Endorsed the WG’s recommendation that the review schedule of SAR model courses should be every six years, a multiple of twice that for the IAMSAR Manual;
  9. Approved SAR.7/Circ.14 on ‘List of documents and publications which should be held by a Maritime or Joint Rescue Coordination Centre;
  10. Urged engagement by national administrations in the ongoing GADSS (ICAO’s Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System) implementation work and to ensure that appropriate processes and procedures are put in place to coordinate SAR operations related to GADSS distress alerts before 1 January 2021;
  11. Instructed the JWG to prepare an amendment to the IAMSAR Manual on search and rescue operations related to GADSS distress alerts and encouraged national administrations to take follow-up actions on the outputs of future GADSS Advisory Group sessions, as appropriate; and,
  12. Approved the provisional agenda for the meeting of JWG 26.



ROUTEING MEASURES AND MANDATORY SHIP REPORTING SYSTEMS.  EG1 was invited to address the draft MSC circular on Procedure for the submission of documents containing proposals for the establishment of, or amendments to, the routeing systems for ships or their reporting systems.  In addition, EG1 was also instructed to examine proposals for Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS) and associated routeing measures in the Indonesian Straits of Sunda and Lombok and to give consideration to the establishment of precautionary areas with recommended directions of traffic flow in both Straits.  Following EG 1’s deliberations and its report thereon, the Sub-Committee approved it in general, and, with a view to adoption by the Committee (MSC 101), in particular:

  1. Approved the draft MSC circular on Procedures for the submission of documents containing proposals for the establishment of, or amendments to, ships routeing or reporting systems;
  2. Approved the establishment of a TSS and associated routeing measures in both the Sunda and Lombok Straits;
  3. Invited interested Member States to verify the modified coordinates for the TSSs in both Straits and to submit relevant comments to MSC 101, as appropriate;
  4. Approved the establishment of precautionary areas with recommended directions of traffic flow, one in Sunda and two in Lombok; and,
  5. Agreed that such routeing measures should be implemented one year after their adoption by MSC.

With regard to existing schemes, the proposal by France and the UK related to termination of the voluntary ship reporting system (MAREP) when navigating through the English Channel and the Dover Strait was approved, with a view to implementation six months after its adoption.  Revocations on the Traffic separation scheme off Ushant, associated inshore traffic zone, and Passage de Fromveur, Chenal du Four, Chenal de la Helle and Raz de Sein which have become obsolete were also approved whilst also noting that the last four mentioned remained dangerous for navigation and unsuitable for international traffic.



UPDATES TO THE LRIT SYSTEM.  Following a brief Plenary discussion, work on this item was delegated to the Navigation Working Group, WG1.  The Sub-Committee subsequently  agreed:

  1. A proposed plan for the third modification testing phase of the LRIT system, and for the renewal of PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) certificates in 2019;
  2. Draft amendments to MSC.1/Circ.1376/Rev.3 on ‘Continuity of service plan for the LRIT system’ and MSC.1/Circ.1259/Rev.7 on Technical documentation (Part 1); and,
  3. A draft revision to MSC.1/Circ.1412/Rev.1 on ‘Principles and guidelines relating to the review and audit of the performance of LRIT Data Centres and the International LRIT Data Exchange’.




WG1 noted that the introduction of BIIT would not achieve the stated aim given in the e-navigation strategic implementation plan (SIP) of establishing whether navigational equipment is displaying the correct information without manually cross-checking with other pieces of equipment.  This view was shared by the Sub-Committee and it was concluded that the output could be deleted from NCSR’s biennial agenda.


GUIDELINES ON STANDARDISED MODES OF OPERATION, S-MODE.  It was recalled that NCSR 5 had established a Correspondence Group on the Development of the draft Guidelines on standardised modes of operation, S-Mode, coordinated by Australia, and in which InterManager participated, assisted stoutly by member company, Seagull Maritime UK.  The Sub-Committee considered the report of the CG submitted by the coordinator, which contained draft Guidelines for standardisation of user interface design for navigation equipment, amended Guidelines for the presentation of navigation-related symbols and performance standards for the presentation of navigation-related information on shipborne navigational displays.

Following a general discussion in Plenary, which included the function and purpose of icons, also practical user interface methods,  the sub-Committee instructed WG1 to take into account comments and decisions made in Plenary and issued appropriate terms of reference for detailed consideration of S-Mode.

WG1 duly deliberated and rendered its report to the Sub-Committee which:

  1. Agreed to the draft MSC circular on guidelines for the standardisation of user interface design for navigation equipment;
  2. Agreed to the draft revision of SN.1/Circ.243/Rev.1 on Guidelines for the presentation of navigational-related symbols, terms and abbreviations; and,
  3. Approved the draft MSC resolution on amendments to resolution MSC.191(79)


DEVELOPMENT OF GUIDANCE ON DEFINITION AND HARMONISATION OF THE FORMAT AND STRUCTURE OF MARITIME SERVICE PORTFOLIOS (MSPs).  The Sub-Committee recalled that MSC 99 had authorised the holding of a second meeting of the IMO/IHO Harmonisation Group on Data Modelling (HDGM 2) from 29 October to 1 November 2018 and had given instructions to consider also the development of a sustainable continuous review process, which did not involve the Organisation, and invited domain coordinating bodies to submit the description of maritime services under their remit to HGDM 2.  Following discussion of HDGM 2’s report, a number of issues were referred to WG1 including a recommended two-step approach, i.e. to issue an MSC resolution containing the guidance and further, an MSC circular with the descriptions of maritime services, in particular, Maritime Service 9 (MS9) – Telemedical Assistance Service (TMAS) together with MS 4 – Local port services.


Upon receipt of WG 1’s report on these matters, the Sub-Committee:

  1. Approved a draft resolution on Guidance on the definition and harmonisation of the format and structure of Maritime Services in the context of e-navigation;
  2. Invited the FAL Committee to consider MS 4 and MS 8 and provide comment and advice on the best way forward; and,
  3. Agreed to the draft MSC circular on initial descriptions of maritime services in the context of e-navigation and, in addition to WG 1’s recommendations, concurred with the strong body of opinion within Plenary whilst examining the report, that of urging IMO to increase its involvement.


CONSEQUENTIAL WORK RELATED TO THE NEW POLAR CODE.  The report of the Correspondence Group (CG), re-established by NCSR 5,  containing draft guidance for navigation and communication equipment intended for use on ships operating in polar waters (the draft guidance) in support of the implementation of the Polar Code was viewed by the Sub-Committee.  However, before inviting WG 1’s consideration of the CG’s draft guidance, the proposed inclusion of a recommendation that one of the two echo-sounders required by the provisions of the Code, part I-A, para should have a forward-looking capability, as well as recommendations relevant to Ship Security Alert Systems (SSAS) were not agreed for inclusion.

In its subsequent report back to Plenary, the Sub-Committee;

  1. Agreed to the draft MSC circular on Guidance for navigation and communication equipment intended for use on ships operating in polar waters; and,
  2. Noted the discussion of the Group on the draft unified interpretation of requirements in part I-A of the Polar Code regarding the survival craft and rescue boat communications equipment of ships intended to operate in low air temperatures, and the decision to integrate the interpretation into the Guidance.


UPDATING OF THE GMDSS MASTER PLAN AND GUIDELINES ON MSI (MARITIME SAFETY INFORMATION) PROVISIONS.  The Sub-Committee noted the information provided by the Secretariat (NCSR 6/9) on updates to the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System Master Plan and completion of the new GISIS module development on Shore-based GMDSS facilities which will replace the existing GMDSS.1 circulars on the GMDSS Master Plan.  A wide ranging discussion followed which reported on the outcome of the tenth IHO World-Wide Navigational Warning Service (WWNWS) Sub-Committee, MSI broadcasts, an update on the Worldwide Met-Ocean Information and Warning Service (WWMIWS) Committee, amendments to the International SafetyNET Manual, development of the Iridium global satellite enhanced group calling system Manual, and promulgation of Maritime Safety Information – NAVTEX Service.

Upon receipt of terms of reference relevant to this item, the Communications Working Group (WG 2) duly convened and in considering the WG 2 report of its deliberations, the Sub-Committee:


  1. Invited proposals to address the issues related to monitoring of Enhanced Group Calling (EGC) messages in a multi-provider environment;
  2. Agreed to the draft Revised International SafetyNET Manual and associated draft MSC circular but noted the need to resolve issues related to the name of the Coordinating Panel and the certification process provided in the draft;
  3. Agreed to the draft interim guidance on the technical requirements for Fleet Safety and approved the draft Revised recommendation on promulgation of Maritime Safety Information;
  4. Approved the draft Revised IMO/IHO Worldwide Navigational Warning Service guidance document;
  5. Approved the draft Revised IMO/WHO World-Wide Met-Ocean Information and Warning Service guidance document;
  6. Endorsed the agreement of the group that the remaining work concerning the draft amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV should focus on unresolved issues;
  7. Agreed, in principle, to the draft amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV , other than the unfinished remaining work identified;
  8. Endorsed the agreement of the Group with regard to actions by the SSE Sub-Committee in connection with the draft amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV;
  9. Noted the Group’s consideration with regard to actions by the HTW Sub-Committee related to the SOLAS chapters III and IV, including consequential amendments to existing instruments;
  10. Endorsed the recommendation that performance standards for both MF and MF/HF installations should be combined in one instrument; and,
  11. Endorsed the updated work plan for the review of existing instruments related to SOLAS chapters III and IV amendments whilst noting progress made on consequential amendments.



REVISION OF SOLAS CHAPTERS III AND IV FOR MODERNISATION OF GMDSS, INCLUDING RELATED AND CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS TO OTHER EXISTING INSTRUMENTS.   The Sub-Committee had for its consideration the report of the Correspondence Group on the Modernisation of the GMDSS submitted by the USA, containing draft amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV. The view that Radar SART should be retained  as part of the requirements of SOLAS regulation IV/7.1.3, supported by EG 14 and JWG 25, was endorsed by the Sub-Committee.  Discussion in Plenary included the consequential amendments to other existing instruments; the consequences of the introduction of additional mobile satellite service providers in the GMDSS; revocation of resolution MSC.131(75) relating to maintenance of a continuous VHF channel watch; a first draft revision of resolution A.806(19); the Performance standards for shipborne MF/HF radio installations capable of voice communication, narrow-band direct-printing and digital selective calling; and, an updated work plan for the review of existing instruments related to the modernisation of the GMDSS which was referred to WG2 for fine tuning.  In addition, the Sub-Committee endorsed the recommendation by WG2 that the Correspondence Group on the Modernisation of the GMDSS should be re-established under the coordination of the USA.


DEVELOPMENTS IN GMDSS SATELLITE SERVICES.  Having noted the information provided in relation to the BeiDou Message Service System (BDMSS) for recognition and use in the GMDSS, China was invited, to provide all the necessary information to the Sub-Committee for evaluation of the satellite system in relation to the stipulated IMO criteria, in due course.  IMSO’s annual report on Inmarsat covering the period ending 30 September 2018 asserted that fully operational maritime mobile satellite distress had been provided.  Nonetheless, concerns were expressed over potential interference caused to Inmarsat terminals by Mobile/Fixed Communications Networks Supplemental Downlink (MFCN SDL) base stations deployed within Europe near to ports and waterways.  On a similar note, the Russian Federation expressed concern regarding the decrease in coverage area of the Inmarsat system in certain geographic areas whilst the Islamic Republic of Iran asked that all current and future GMDSS service providers offer their services to all Member States of IMO in a non-discriminatory and impartial manner to guarantee the safety and security of seafarers and shipping in general. Information provided by IMSO related to their study on interoperability issues between recognised GMDSS mobile satellite systems and the impact on Maritime Safety Information (MSI) providers and Rescue Coordination Centres (RCCs) was noted with interest.


REVISED PERFORMANCE STANDARDS FOR EPIRBs OPERATING ON 406 MHz (RESOLUTION A.810(19)) TO INCLUDE COSPAS-SARSAT MEOSAR AND SECOND GENERATION BEACONS.  The Sub-Committee recalled that NCSR 5 had invited the fourteenth meeting of the Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group on Maritime Radiocommunication matters(EG 14) to consider the draft revision of the Performance standards for float-free satellite emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBS) operating on 406 MHz.

ICAO/IMO JWG 25 also considered the draft standards as well as results of testing the 121.5 MHz reduced duty cycle.  In this context, the USA proposed including an Automatic Identification System (AIS) locating signal, adding a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver, updating outdated references, including the provisions related to type-approval of EPIRBs and including the use of lanyards attached to satellite EPIRBs.  During consideration, a number of issues were highlighted requiring resolution namely the need to take cognisance of the draft revised performance standards agreed by EG 14 and JWG 25, correct references to Cospas-Sarsat circulars, and, the application provisions related to retroactive application to existing equipment plus the implementation time required.

After consideration, WG2 was instructed to finalise the draft resolution A.810(19) and the consequential amendments to Recommendation ITU-R M.633-4 for approval.

Subsequent to the deliberations by WG2, the Sub-Committee:

  1. Approved the draft Performance standards for float free EPIRBs operating on 406 MHz and the associated MSC resolution;
  2. Invited MSC to explore the possibility of adopting revised versions of resolutions by adding “Rev.Xx” to the original notation in order to facilitate traceability; and,
  3. Approved the draft liaison statement to ITU- WPs 4C and 5B on transmission characteristics of Emergency Position-Indicating Beacon.


RESPONSE TO MATTERS RELATED TO THE RADIOCOMMUNICATION ITU-R STUDY GROUP AND ITU WORLD RADIOCOMMUNICATION CONFERENCE.  The Sub-Committee considered the report of the fourteenth meeting of the Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group on Maritime radiocommunication matters (EG 14) which took place during September 2018, following which appropriate actions were taken.  After a brief discussion on the draft IMO position on relevant WRC-19 agenda items, note was taken that MSC 100 had approved an updated draft IMO position prepared by EG 14 and which has already been submitted to the ITU.  Notwithstanding, WG 2 was tasked to consider and finalise the draft IMO position for approval by MSC 101 and consequential submission to WRC-19.

It was recalled that NCSR 5 had instructed EG 14 to prepare the necessary liaison statements on the possible interferences with L-band maritime satellite communications, and these were duly forwarded to ITU-R Working Party 5B and the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT).

Note was taken of the discussion at EG 14 on the list of applications that should be accepted as autonomous maritime radio devices (AMRD) Group A and the need to consider the matter in concert with navigational experts which was subsequently achieved.

Following endorsement by the IMO Council, the Sub-Committee agreed to the holding of the fifteenth meeting of the IMO/ITU EG during the week of 8 to12 July 2019 at IMO HQ in London and instructed WG2 to prepare the draft terms of reference for that meeting.

Having considered the relevant parts of WG 2s report, the Sub-Committee:

  1. Approved the draft IMO position on WRC-19 agenda items concerning matters related to maritime services;
  2. Approved the draft liaison statement to ITU-R WP 5B on protection criteria for aeronautical and maritime systems; and,
  3. Approved the draft liaison statement to ITU-5B on autonomous maritime radio devices and identities in the maritime mobile service.


MEASURES TO PROTECT THE SAFETY OF PERSONS RESCUED AT SEA.  Only two documents have been submitted by Member States and international organisations since the output was included in the agenda of the COMSAR Sub-Committee in 2009.  Having noted this, in addition to considerable discussions held at MSC, FAL, COMSAR, and FSI during the intervening period, and that the same kind of issues are being considered under the output “Unsafe mixed migration by sea” on the agendas of the MSC and FAL Committees, it was agreed to request the Committee to delete this output from the biennial agenda of NCSR.


CONDUCT OF SEARCH AND RESCUE OPERATIONS IN THE MARITIME AREAS.  The Sub-Committee noted the information provided by Ukraine drawing attention to the Russian Federation’s unlawful unilateral actions in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, and the implications of such unlawful actions for conducting search and rescue operations.  Note was also taken of the information provided by the Russian Federation (NCSR 6/22/4) commenting on document NCSR 6/22/3 (Ukraine).  The Sub-Committee further noted the statement made by the delegation of Romania in this regard, supported by the European Commission.


DATE OF NEXT MEETING.  The seventh session of the NCSR Sub-Committee has been tentatively scheduled to take place from 15 to 24 January 2020.

Captain Paddy McKnight


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