Inmarsat set to launch new up-to-date ship safety system

Inmarsat plans to launch a new safety service on its i4 satellite network, as an upgrade to its i3-based C-band network, which has been online for 25 years.

The new system, MSDS-2, would make use of the higher volumes of voice and data capabilities available over the FleetBroadband network to exchange larger amounts of safety data between ship and shore.

“For the last few years we’ve been working on the new project to effectively take the capability of Inmarsat-C and transplant it into FleetBroadband, by having the system able to deliver the same information but in a modern, up-to-date format,” says Inmarsat’s retiring head of safety services Peter Blackhurst, explaining that one i4 satellite can handle the data equivalent of the entire i3 network.

“The i4s are set to last well into the 2020s… and of course they’re now talking about Inmarsat i6 satellites after that,” he said.

Although the new system will allow for voice distress calling over Fleet Broadband, features such as distress chat, based on the look and feel of a traditional instant messaging client, allow for instantaneous communication but without the possibility of being misinterpreted.

The network’s date of introduction will be subject to the IMO approval process. “So simply put – sometime next year,” says Blackhurst.

He said: “We now are a holder – a bank – for global maritime safety information. Anything that now goes out on Inmarsat-C is held on the maritime safety server. So actually there are lots of capabilities for that data to be used by other official  organisations or commercial organisations. Or other pieces of equipment that are not currently known as safety information?”

Speaking of recent moves by other satcoms players to start up new maritime safety networks, Chris McLaughlin, Inmarsat senior vp, said “There is some aspiration for others to do maritime distress, and we commend this… provided they stick to all of the requirements of resolution 1001, and providing that they are 99.9% available, and also providing that they are not gaps between the satellites.”

“99.9% coverage means one failed call out of 1000,” added Blackhurst. “When you drop that figure by just 4.4%, this falls to one in 20.”

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