The IMO Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue held its 7th Session (NCSR 7) from Wednesday 15 through Friday 24 January 2020. Mr R. Lakeman (NETHERLANDS) chaired the meeting, assisted by his Vice Chair, Mr N Clifford (NEW ZEALAND), both of whom were subsequently re-elected for 2021. Three Working Groups (WGs), one Experts Group (EG) and one Drafting Group (DG) were formed and chaired as follows:
- WG1 Navigation, Mr J Brouwers (NETHERLANDS)
- WG2 Communications, Mr A Schwarz (GERMANY)
- WG3 Search and Rescue, Mr N Clifford (NEW ZEALAND)
- EG1 Ships’ Routeing, Mr G Detweiler (USA)
- DG1 Updating GMDSS Master Plan & MSI Guidelines, Mr T Ski (NORWAY)
The meeting was attended by representatives from 86 Member States, 1 Associate Member of IMO, 3 UN and Specialised Agencies, 7 Inter-Governmental Organisations and 26 Non-Governmental Organisations. In order to cover the extensive agenda, Plenary met for the first 3 days followed by voluntary week-end work within the specialist Groups, culminating in a further 3 days for discussion. Thursday 23 gave an opportunity for the translators to produce reports in the three IMO working languages (English, French and Spanish) which were scrutinised on the final day, Friday 24 January.
Items of particular interest to InterManager members are as follows:
ADDRESS BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL. The Secretary General welcomed delegates to the seventh session of the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue. He extended sympathy to Australia and the Philippines in light of the two recent natural disasters which had caused death and destruction in both countries and, on behalf of the IMO membership, the Secretariat and himself, sent deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims.
Having commented that 2019 had been a busy but also very successful year, he went on to speak about this year’s World Maritime theme, which is “Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet”. This will provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and showcase the work that the IMO and its Member States are undertaking to achieve the targets set by the SDGs. The transition towards a sustainable future has already started through the adoption and continuous development of measures to cut GHG emissions, reducing the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil, implementing the BWM Convention, protecting the polar regions, reducing marine litter, improving the efficiency of shipping through the electronic exchange of information, meeting the challenges of shipping’s digitalisation and enhancing the participation of women in the maritime community. World Maritime Day will be celebrated this year at IMO Headquarters on 24 September, whilst the annual parallel event will be organised by the Government of South Africa, in Durban from 28 to 30 October. Also worthy of note is that that the closing date for 2020 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea submissions is15 April 2020, nominations for which he looked forward to receiving.
The SG IMO next went on to highlight some key issues among the many varied items on the agenda for NCSR 7. These included:
- Draft amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV and consequential amendments to other existing instruments related to the Modernisation Plan for GMDSS;
- Safety measures for non-SOLAS ships operating in polar waters;
- Revision of the Guidelines for both, Vessel Traffic Services, and, Places of refuge for ships in need of assistance; and,
- The continuing need to address Search and Rescue related issues.
Rounding off his address, Mr Lim wished the Sub-Committee every success in its deliberations over the following week and a half.
DECISIONS OF OTHER IMO BODIES. The NCSR Sub-Committee noted that MEPC 74, given the relevance of actions 10 and 11 of the ‘Action plan to address marine plastic litter from ships’ (resolution MEPC.310(73)) to the remit of the CCC and NCSR Sub-Committees, had stressed to them the importance of the issue. The Sub-Committee also observed the general support at MSC 101 to tackle the problem of containers lost at sea, which poses a real danger for international shipping, as recognised by MEPC 73 and MEPC 74, and invited Member States and international organisations to submit proposals for a relevant new output to MSC 102.
It was also agreed that amendments to guidelines and recommendations adopted by MSC resolutions could be adopted in the future, if appropriate, as revised versions of such resolutions, maintaining the same number, with the extension “Rev…” added.
ROUTEING MEASURES AND MANDATORY SHIP REPORTING SYSTEMS. A number of routeing measures were given preliminary consideration in Plenary following which The Experts Group on Ships’ Routeing was formed. The subsequent report on its deliberations was approved in general, and in particular, the Sub-Committee, with a view to adoption by the committee (MSC):
- Approved the draft consolidated traffic separation schemes and associated routeing measures off the coast of Norway;
- Approved the draft amended traffic separation scheme in “Slupska Bank” off the coast of Poland;
- Approved the draft amendments to the traffic separation scheme “Off Ushant”
- Approved the draft amendments to the existing two-way route in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait;
- Agreed that the routeing measures just approved be implemented six months after their adoption by the Committee; and,
- Agreed that the existing adopted measures in circulars COLREG.2/Circ.58, COLREG.2/Circ.61 and COLREG.2/Circ.62 should be revoked, due to their complete replacement by new measures to be adopted.
UPDATES TO THE LRIT SYSTEM. The Secretariat provided information on developments since NCSR 6, including the functioning and operation of the LRIT Data Distribution Plan (DDP) server and the Information Distribution Facility (IDF), the renewal of PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) certificates, the testing and establishment of LRIT Data Centres (DCs), the third modification testing phase of the LRIT system and the outcomes of the periodical meetings of the LRIT Operational Governance Body (OGB).
As part of the most relevant outcomes from the OGB, the Sub-Committee noted the role of the Business Continuity Facility (BCF) maintained by EMSA in the necessary LRIT documentation. Since the transfer of operations of the IDE (International LRIT Data Exchange) from the United States to EMSA, the IDE has had a backup in Spain, which is part of the BCF maintained by EMSA. This backup acts as a first recovery option in case of any incidents that may affect the operation of the IDE at its primary location in Lisbon and draft amendments to address the role of the IDE BSF hosted by EMSA will be considered at NCSR 8. Note was also taken of the connectivity issues with the IDE disaster recovery site, maintained by the United States, which are still under investigation and will continued to be monitored.
The Sub-Committee considered the information provided by the LRIT Coordinator of IMSO (NCSR 7/4/2/Rev.1) related to the overall performance of the LRIT system, including recommendations to improve efficiency, effectiveness and security of the system and:
- Noted that, during the current reporting period, the overall performance of the system had been successful;
- Noted the results of the analysis conducted by IMSO on the use of the LRIT system by SAR users, encouraging users to complete the questionnaire on IMSO’s website;
- Urged all LRIT Data Centres, particularly the Yemen National LRIT data centre (NDC) to cooperate with, and fulfil their financial obligations to IMSO in a timely manner;
- Urged Administrations to provide their LRIT Data Centres with accurate information on the types of ships they have under their registries in order to support provision of LRIT information to the entitled data users; and,
- Noted the major non-conformities detected at the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea NDC and the Morocco NDC and urged the Contracting Governments responsible for the NDCs to address these issues identified by the LRIT Coordinator.
Following discussion of a proposal by Brazil to remove the functionality in the LRIT system to change the frequency of transmission of LRIT information by reprogramming the LRIT shipborne equipment, the Sub-Committee agreed to continue to allow the use of this preferred option, on a voluntary basis. Modifications only to the data centre are required that receives the request to change the frequency of transmission of LRIT information from an LRIT shipborne equipment. The OGB and LRIT Coordinator were invited to consider the matter further in order to advise the Sub-Committee of any necessary amendments to LRIT-related instruments for the regular implementation of this option.
UPDATING OF THE GMDSS MASTER PLAN AND GUIDELINES ON MARITIME SAFETY INFORMATION (MSI). Following discussion in Plenary, the Drafting Group (DG1) was formed and carried out the work dictated by its terms of reference. The report rendered to the Sub-Committee subsequent to its deliberations was approved in general and the Sub-Committee, in particular:
- Agreed to the draft revision of MSC.1/Circ.1364/Rev.1 on the International SafetyNET Manual for approval by MSC;
- Agreed to the draft MSC circular on the IMO Enhanced Group Call Coordinating Panel, also for approval by MSC.
This agenda item was also given to the Communications Working Group (WG2) which reported to the sub-committee that;
- Australia, having taken note of WG2s discussions, announced that it would keep the Sub-Committee informed of its progress in implementing a standardised API protocol for machine-to-machine transfer of information between the MSI and Recognised Mobile Satellite service providers;
- The monitoring established previously for an Inmarsat-only environment might not work with the diverging topology of the Iridium system, also that the implications for monitoring with the advent of BeiDou are still unclear; and,
- Currently, no liaison statement is required as the parties involved (IMO/IHO/WMO/IMSO/service providers) are identified and cooperating.
WG2 also discussed revisions to SOLAS with regard to GMDSS modernisation, radiocommunication matters, and consequential amendments to various resolutions related to the adoption of resolution MSC.471(101). In the Group’s report, these items featured in the ‘Action requested of the Sub-Committee’, as follows, where the Sub-Committee:
- Agreed in principle with the draft amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV;
- Noted Group discussion on MSC/Circ.1038 on Guidelines for general Radiocommunications, also that on resolution A.702(17) on Radio maintenance guidelines for the GMDSS related to sea areas A3 amd A4;
- Noted the finalised draft revisions of MSC/Circ.1039 on ‘Guidelines for shore-based maintenance of satellite EPIRBs’ and MSC.1/Circ.1040/Rev.1 on ‘Guidelines on annual testing of 406 MHz satellite EPIRBs’;
- Noted the progress made on the revision of the draft MSC resolution on performance standards capable of voice communication, digital selective calling and reception of NSI information and on the revision of circular COMSAR/Circ.32;
- Noted discussion on the revision of resolution A.707(17) on charges for distress, urgency and safety messages through the Inmarsat system, and agreed, in principle, to the draft new resolution for the ship side;
- Endorsed the categorisation and prioritisation in the work plan for the review of existing instruments related to amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV;
- Noted the consideration by the Group with regard to any necessary actions by the HTW and SSE Sub-Committees in connection with the draft amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV;
- Noted the lack of agreement with regard to intersessional arrangements;
- Noted the views of the Group with regard to Electromagnetic interference (EMI) effects of light-emitting diode (LED) lighting systems and invited interested Member States and organisations to submit contributions on this issue to EG 16;
- Approved the draft liaison statement relating to the revision of recommendation ITU-R M.585-7 on ‘Assignment and use of identities in the maritime mobile service’, also for AMRD Group B using AIS technology, which will be conveyed by the Secretariat to ITU-R WP 5B;
- Approved the draft liaison statement relating to the protection of L-band maritime satellite communications which the Secretariat will convey to CEPT ECC;
- Approved draft terms of reference for the 16th meeting of the Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group on Maritime Radiocommunication Matters and agreed that five days will be required for the meeting;
- Endorsed the recommendation to forward the draft revised resolutions MSC.163(78) and MSC.333(90) to EG 16 for further consideration;
- Noted that, due to time constraints, document NCSR 2/22/1 concerning the review of IMO publications related to communications, including the possible development of new ones, was not discussed; and,
- Approved the Communications Working Group in general
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. The Sub-Committee recalled that, according to the plan of work approved by MSC 98, draft amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV should be finalised at this session and that work related, and consequential amendments to, other existing instruments should continue, with a view to completion at NCSR 8 for approval by MSC 104 in 2021 and adoption by MSC 105 in 2022. It was also recalled that NCSR 6 had re-established the CG on the modernisation of GMDSS under the coordination of the United States and requested the Experts Group to submit a report on Harmonisation of aeronautical and maritime SAR, thus enabling the JWG to provide comments and advice on related and consequential amendments to NCSR 7. Following an extensive debate in Plenary, the Communications Working Group (WG2) was formed and, on completion of its work, reported back to the Sub-Committee which approved its conclusions in general, and in particular:
- Noted the discussion on the development of a technical solution for the reception and dissemination of MSI and SAR-related information over different recognised mobile satellite services;
- Noted the discussion on the monitoring of MSI and SAR broadcasts in a multi-provider environment;
- Agreed, in principle, to the draft amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV;
- Noted the discussion on MSC/Circ.1038 on Guidelines for general Radiocommunications and resolution A.702(17) on Radio maintenance guidelines for the GMDSS related to sea areas A3 and A4;
- Noted the finalised draft revisions of MSC/Circ.1039 on Guidelines for shore-based maintenance of satellite EPIRBs and MSC.1/Circ.1040/Rev.1 on Guidelines on annual testing of 406 MHz satellite EPIRBs;
- Noted the progress made by the Group on the revision of the draft MSC resolution on performance standards for shipborne MF and MF/HF radio installations capable of voice communication, digital selective calling and reception of MSI information and on the revision of circular COMSAR/Circ.32;
- Noted the discussion on the revision of resolution A.707(17) on charges for distress, urgency and safety messages through the Inmarsat system, and agreed, in principle, to the draft new MSC resolution for the ship side.
REPORT OF THE SAR WORKING GROUP. WG 3 was instructed by the Sub-Committee to take into account decisions, comments and proposals made in Plenary in respect of:
- Consideration of Descriptions of Maritime Services in the context of e-navigation;
- Developments in GMDSS satellite services;
- Guidelines on harmonised aeronautical and Maritime search and rescue procedures, including SAR training matters; and,
- A review of IMO publications related to search and rescue, including the possible development of new ones, and to prepare terms of reference for an editorial experts group, as appropriate.
Having met, WG 3 duly reported back the results of their deliberations to the Sub-Committee which approved the subsequent report of the Group in general, and in particular:
- Encouraged Member States and SAR services to provide inputs on the definitions of maritime services 10 and 16, either directly to the relevant Member State acting as domain coordinating body (i.e. Norway or Singapore) or through submissions to the JWG (ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group) and future NCSR meetings;
- Instructed the JWG to keep the matter of the description of maritime services 10 and 16 under review and to provide recommendations in this regard to NCSR 8;
- Noted the information on the status of the Cospas-Sarsat programme in general and in particular encouraged Administrations to enter into agreements between SPOCS (SAR Point of Contact) and their supporting MCCs, based on the model available on the Cospas-Sarsat website. The JWG was also instructed to develop an appropriate methodology for RCCs to provide feedback on actions taken in a SAR event to the SAR communication provider from whom the details of the alert were received (such as web-based tools or forms);
- Noted the considerations on the report of JWG 26;
- Approved the provisional agenda for JWG 26;
- Approved the draft COMSAR circular on Interim Guidance for SAR Services regarding implementation of Autonomous Distress Tracking (ADT) of aircraft in flight;
- Instructed the JWG to consider the results of the GMDSS/GADSS (ICAO’s Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System) ship-to-aircraft interoperability trials once presented to the JWG;
- Noted the key principles on the user requirements for documents and information sets;
- Instructed the JWG to consider the establishment of an editorial experts group to assist with editorial work related to the IAMSAR Manual, and prepare draft terms of reference for such a group;
- Noted the urgent need for an electronic document defining maritime SAR regions and contact points, in particular to support the effective operations of GMDSS and its associated LADR (Location of an Aircraft in Distress Repository); and,
- Approved the report in general
REPORT OF THE NAVIGATION WORKING GROUP. WG1 was given a comprehensive list of matters for consideration which included two satellite navigation systems, revision of Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) Guidelines, non-SOLAS ships operating in Polar waters, revision of Guidelines on places of refuge for ships, a review of IMO publications related to navigation and the issues encountered with MSI portrayal guidance. Following extensive discussion within the Group, their subsequent report was approved in general, and in particular, the Sub-Committee:
- Agreed the draft SN circular on Recognition of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) as a component of the World-wide radio navigation system for approval by MSC;
- Approved a draft MSC resolution on Performance standards for shipborne Japanese Regional Quasi-Zenith Navigation Satellite System (QZSS) receiver equipment;
- Endorsed the view of the Group that the work on development of performance standards for shipborne satellite navigation receiver equipment could continue, but in the context of satellite navigation receiver equipment only, and invited interested parties to progress the work intersessionally, submitting relevant proposals to NCSR 8 for finalisation;
- Approved the draft Assembly resolution (A.857(20) on ‘Guidelines for Vessel Traffic Services’ for MSC approval and endorsed the view that the Assembly could adopt it without involvement of LEG or MEPC;
- Noted the Group’s view that in order to further progress the development of Maritime Services descriptions in a harmonised manner, overarching coordination meetings for sharing experiences and reporting progress within relevant groups /organisations should continue intersessionally;
- Noted the need for an IMO intersessional harmonisation group, with a scope which could include some mandate by FAL, to progress the development of descriptions of Maritime Services;
- Invited interested parties to progress the work to update the E-navigation Strategy implementation plan – Update 1 (MSC.1/Circ.1595) intersessionally and present a mature draft to a future session of the Sub-Committee under AOB;
- Noted the discussion of the Group on safety measures for non-SOLAS ships operating in polar waters, established a correspondence group under the coordination of New Zealand and approved its draft terms of reference;
- Noted the discussion of the Group on the revision of Guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance (resolution.949(23)) and established a CG coordinated by the UK, approving its draft terms of reference;
- Given that the IMO Assembly authorised MSC, MEPC, and LEG to amend the annexed guidelines on places of refuge for ships and which needed to be agreed by all three committees, tabled proposals for MSC 102 to assist in speeding up work to revise the resolution;
- Noted the views of the group on IMO publications, most notably that there is currently no compelling need to establish an editorial expert group;
- Noted the discussion of the Group on the MSI symbol guidance and agreed with the draft corrigendum (SN.1/Circ.243/Rev.2/Corr.1) for approval by MSC;
- Invited Member States and international organisations to inform relevant stakeholders, as soon as possible, of the correction to SN.1/Circ.243/Rev.2 upon the approval of the corrigendum by MSC 102.
DATE OF NEXT MEETING. The eighth session of the NCSR Sub-Committee is tentatively scheduled to take place from 9 to 18 February 2021.
Captain Paddy McKnight
POST SCRIPT: This report encapsulates extensive discussions and decisions across a wide range of subjects related to the NCSR. Thus in compressing the work of seven days intensive debate, and hopefully making it short and readable, the content may, of necessity, not be detailed enough. However, should anyone require greater in-depth information on any of the agenda items, it is easily arranged so if anything further is required, please let me know at: email@example.com