Bulletin No.: 20/1998

Date (Y-M-D): 1998-12-15

Subject: Sea Coasts of Canada - GMDSS and Domestic Ships

Mariners operating on the sea coasts of Canada are advised that the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System ( GMDSS ) completes its phase-in internationally on February 1, 1999. As a result, ships subject to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea ( SOLAS ), which includes passenger ships of any size and cargo ships of 300 gross tonnage and over making international voyages, will no longer be obligated to maintain a listening watch on medium frequency ( MF ) 2182 kHz. SOLAS ships will instead be maintaining an automated watch using digital selective calling ( DSC ) on 2187.5 kHz. With respect to very high frequency ( VHF ) communications, SOLAS ships will be maintaining a DSC watch on VHF channel 70 (156.525 MHz) ; however, as a interim measure until February 1, 2005, they are also required to maintain the voice listening watch on VHF channel 16 (or vessel traffic service zone channel, as appropriate). It should be noted in the GMDSS , DSC messages are used for making initial contact and follow-up communications will still take place on the usual voice channels.

Furthermore, with the GMDSS comes the ability for suitably equipped ships to send long-range rapid distress alerts and messages to coast stations through the Inmarsat A, B or C systems, or by using high frequency ( HF ) DSC through one of the United States coast radio stations that now maintain an HF DSC watch on dedicated HF frequencies.

In light of the above:

  1. for ship-to-ship distress alerting, ships operating beyond the VHF coverage area should consider carrying an MF radio installation which includes facilities for transmitting and receiving distress alerts by DSC on 2187.5 kHz; for effective ship-to-shore distress alerting and shore-to-ship communications, ships operating beyond the VHF coverage area are strongly encouraged to carry either:
    1. an Inmarsat A, B or C terminal (Inmarsat C with Enhanced Group Call ( EGC ) is recommended when operating outside of Navtex coverage), or;
    2. an MF/HF radio installation which includes facilities for;
      1. transmitting and receiving, for distress and safety purposes by radiotelephony, narrow band direct-printing and DSC on all
      2. distress and safety frequencies between 1, 605 kHz and 4, 000 kHz ( MF ) and between 4, 000 kHz and 27, 500 kHz ( HF ), and; maintaining a DSC watch on 2187.5 kHz, 8414.5 kHz and on at least one of 4207.5, 6312, 12577 or 16, 804.5 kHz;
  2. all ships operating on the sea coasts of Canada are strongly encouraged, when purchasing new marine radiocommunications equipment, to purchase GMDSS equipment appropriate to their area of operation and that complies fully with the latest International Maritime Organization ( IMO ) performance standards; and
  3. ships carrying an Inmarsat A, B or C terminal and equipment capable of MF or HF DSC should ensure there are two navigation officers who have received the proper training and hold a GMDSS General Operator Certificate, issued by Industry Canada, and ships carrying VHF DSC equipment should ensure all operators hold a GMDSS Restricted Operator Certificate.

Keywords:                                  Questions concerning this bulletin should be addressed to:

2. Radio
3. Distress
R.A. Renaud
Transport Canada
Marine Safety
Tower C, Place de Ville
11th Floor, 330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N8

To add or change your address, contact us at: marinesafety@tc.gc.ca

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