Outside Assistance and GMDSS

The GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress Safety System) relies on coordinating a number of different systems for alerting other vessels and authorities to a Distress situation. It has many different components to ensure that whether you are in a coastal area, offshore or merely witness to a distress situation you have a means of alerting the authorities. Finally you have a homing beacon of some sort for the SAR (Search and Rescue) services to find you even if you have had to abandon ship.

The diagram below outlines the different components of the system and how they provide a Safety Network.

Components of GMDSS

The various components of the GMDSS system are as follows:
  1. DSC alerting. This is the use of existing radio equipment aboard the vessel to raise an alarm with vessels or coast radio stations within range of the appropriate equipment, whether VHF (approx 40 miles), MF (approx 150 miles) or HF (almost Worldwide).
  2. EPIRB. Although many people see an EPIRB as a primary method of raising an alarm it is in fact a secondary means of alerting as it will seldom be acted upon by the authorities without some corroborating evidence that a distress exists, due to the number of false alerts from EPIRBs.
  3. SART (Search and Rescue Transponder) provides a homing beacon for either ships in the area or for SAR craft that have already been alerted to the approximate location of a casualty. A SART provides your best chance of rescue from a liferaft once an initial alert has been received.
  4. Satellite communications provide a very valuable means of raising the alarm from a distance as well as providing routine communications and data service. However there are geographical limitations to its usefulness, particularly on the smaller yacht systems (Mini M, Fleet 33, Fleet 55).
  5. MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centers), LES (Land Earth Stations) and other components of the system provide the human interface between the electronics and the human part of the system, raising the alarm and deploying SAR assets.
(Follow the link below for a discussion of the types of equipment that form part of the GMDSS system and their usefulness.)

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