PROCEDURES FOR RESPONDING TO DIGITAL SELECTIVE CALLING (DSC) DISTRESS ALERTS BY SHIPS

No.3 of 2000

03-03-2000

  1. The International Maritime Organisation has issued a circular (COMSAR/ Circular 21 dated 25 Jan 2000), providing procedure for responding to DSC alerts at sea. A copy of the circular is attached at Annex. The objective of this circular is to reduce the number of unintended activations of DSC distress alerts and DSC distress relay alerts. Such unintended activations could cause confusion at the coast stations or rescue co-ordination centres and result in a delay in the response time for genuine distress incidents.

  2. Masters and officers are reminded that misuse of distress signals is an offence under the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Collisions at Sea) Regulations. MPA strongly recommends that masters and officers comply with the operational and technical procedures given in the Annex.

  3. Owners and Managers are requested to bring this circular and the Annex to the attention of masters and officers of their ships for compliance.

  4. Please call Capt I G Sangamewar at telephone number 63756205 if you have any queries on this circular.

    LEE SENG KONG
    DIRECTOR OF MARINE
    MARITIME AND PORT AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE



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INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANIZATION
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Telephone: 0171-735 7611
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Ref.T2/6.061111111COMSAR/Circ.21
11111111111111111125 January 2000

PROCEDURE FOR RESPONDING TO DSC DISTRESS ALERTS BY SHIPS

  1. Introduction

    The Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR), at its fourth session (12 to 16 July 1999), decided that digital selective calling (DSC) relays of distress alerts on all shipborne DSC equipment should be reduced and prepared a procedure for responding to VHF, VHF/MF and HF distress alerts, given in annexes1,2and3, recommending that it be displayed on the ship's bridge as A4 size posters. It also prepared the following guidance.

  2. Distress relays

    2.1Radio personnel serving on ships should be made aware of the consequences of transmitting a distress relay call and of routeing a DSC distress relay alert to other than coast stations (CS).

    2.2The number of unintended activations of DSC distress alerts and DSC distress relay alerts creates extra work load and confusion to (M)RCCs and also causing delay in the response-time. The original distress alert from a ship in distress should not be disrupted by other ships, by transmitting a DSC distress relay alert.

    2.3Recommendation ITU-R M.541-8 on Operational procedures for the use of DSC equipment in the Maritime Mobile Service identifies only two situations in which a ship would transmit a distress relay call (distress relay alert):

    .1 on receiving a distress alert on a HF channel, which is not acknowledged by a coast station within 5 minutes. The distress relay call should be addressed to the appropriate coast station (Annex 1, paragraph 3.4.2 andAnnex 3, paragraph 6.1.4); and

    .2 on knowing that another ship in distress is not itself able to transmit the distress alert and the Master of the ship considers that further help is necessary. The distress relay call should be addressed to "all ships" or to the appropriate coast station (Annex 3, paragraph 1.4).

    2.4In no case is a ship permitted to transmit a DSC distress relay call on receipt of a DSC distress alert on either VHF or MF channels.

    2.5Distress relay calls on HF channels should be initiated manually.

    2.6Compliance with operational and technical provisions above would prevent transmission of inappropriate distress relay calls.

  3. All coast stations call

    3.1Recommendation ITU-R M.493-9 on DSC systems for use in the Maritime Mobile Service provides for "group calls" an address consisting of the characters corresponding to the station's Maritime Mobile Service identity (MMSI) and a number of administrations have already assigned a "group call" MMSI to their coast stations in addition to the coast stations individual MMSI.

    3.2By multilateral agreements, a "group call" MMSI could be assigned to all coast stations of a specific region, e.g., an RCC area and could comply with IMO's requirement without need of introducing further modifications to GMDSS equipment.

    3.3An alternative method to implement an "all coast stations" call without the need to modify Recommendation ITU-R M.493-9 could be to define one MMSI world-wide as an address for all coast stations, in accordance with Nos. S19.100 to S19.126 of the ITU Radio Regulations. However, this solution would also require a modification of the setup at each coast station participating in the GMDSS.

  4. Authorization

    It should be noted that on ships, distress alerts, distress acknowledgements and distress relay calls can only be transmitted with permission of the Master of the ship.

  5. Flow diagrams

    5.1 The simplified flow diagrams* given in annexes1,2and3, describe actions to be taken aboard ships upon receipt of distress alerts from other ships. Administrations should give wide distribution of these flow diagrams to ships and training institutions.

    5.211Member Governments are invited to bring the above guidance and the annexed flow diagrams to the attention of their shipowners, seafarers, coast stations, RCCs and all others concerned.
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