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Understanding GMDSS

Year: 1994
Language: english
Author: L. Tetley D. Calcutt
Genre: Handbook
Publisher: British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
ISBN: ISBN 0-340-61042-5
Format: PDF
Quality: eBook
Pages count: 307
Description: History has shown that changes are often made as a consequence of events. In addition,
engineering changes are made as a consequence of the escalating development of
technology. Both of these criteria have lead to a massive change in the methojs by which
distress alerting and communications are carried out on a global scale. The embryo of a
new global communications system commenced operation in February 1992, and will
continue to be developed during the transition period leading to February 1999 when
the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) becomes fully operational.
The GMDSS is already extending the frontiers of mobile radio communications technology
by building a complex highly reliable radionet to encompass the world, and take
global mobile communications forward into the new millenium.
Not since the year 1912 and the tragic loss of the RMS Titanic has there been such
a radical change in the field of maritime communications. Much has been written in
retrospect about the unfortunate Titanic. A considerable amount of criticism has been
levelled at the resultant rescue operation which, in fact, took place relatively efficiently
within the guidelines valid at that time. However you view the tragedy, that
singular maritime disaster instigated a necessary process of change which continues
today. Maritime safety procedures are reviewed at regular meetings of the Safety
of Life at Sea Convention under the guidance of the International Maritime


Clearly, a critical element within the safety package protecting all those who sail the
oceans of the world is radio communications and its ability to alert other vessels and
shore establishments of an impending disaster.
Radio communications within the GMDSS are composed of numerous elements
forming a highly efficient radio net enclosing the entire surface of the world. Both
terrestrial and satellite methods of communications are interlocked in order to produce
an extremely reliable scheme whereby relatively inexperienced operators can use
modern equipment to alert rescue authorities in the event of a vessel being in distress.
However, whilst the use of satellite communications enables a shipboard operator to
alert a shore-based rescue co-ordination centre rapidly, it should be remembered that a
ship in distress requires immediate assistance which, in most cases, will be provided by
shipping in the immediate area. Even considering the spectacular advances in technology,
the human element still exists, and it is likely that distressed seamen will still be
rescued by fellow seamen.
Gone are the days of the dedicated maritime radio officer who communicated by
Morse code, often using a strange vocabulary. He/she has been replaced by the
on-board operator whose secondary task it is to operate the radio communications
equipment. Whilst mariners allocated the task of being shipboard radio operators are
required to hold a Certificate of Competency, the skills-training period is very short
compared with that of a dedicated radio officer, even compared with those who sailed
on the ill-fated Titanic. However, the immense advances made in electronic equipmentiv Preface
technology and system design have ensured that radio communications terminals can be
operated very efficiently by virtually anyone.
This book has been written to provide the new radio operator and the electro-technical officer
with all the knowledge required to understand fully the GMDSS and its
related systems. There are three major sections in the book. Section one provides
detailed information on the GMDSS itself. The complexity of the interlocking methods
of communications, position fixing and distress work are carefully explained, along with
specific equipment operational techniques. Section two looks at the massive impact of
satellite communications and explains fully how, using satellites in general and the
Inmarsat system in particular, distress alerting and communications via this medium
have become relatively easy procedures. In addition, the operation of satellite Ship
Earth Stations produced by major manufacturers is explained. The principles of terrestrial radio
communications are considered in Section three, culminating in a description
of some of the modern radio equipment available and its place within the GMDSS
radionet. Finally, a detailed glossary and abbreviation section is provided which
includes all those curious phrases, acronyms and buzzwords to be found in GMDSS
literature and technical manuals.
This is a reference textbook which, when read in conjunction with technical manuals,
will enable the reader to understand the technology employed in modern maritime
communications systems. A large number of diagrams, photographs and illustrations
have been included in order to make the text readily understandable.
The companion volume Satellite Communications: Principles and Applications has
been written for use by maritime electro-technical officers, communications engineers
and engineering students who require to analyse satellite communications system
technology at a much greater depth.
L. Tetley


1. The GMDSS radionet
2. Equipment maintenance requirements
3. GMDSS personnel qualifications
4. Satellite orbital parameters and outline satellite communication principles
5. The Inmarsat organization
6. The Inmarsat-A system
7. The Inmarsat-B system
8. The Inmarsat-C system
9. The Inmarsat-M system
10. Satellite mobile frequency bands
11. The future
12. Signal propagation and the radio spectrum
13. Antenna systems
14. Radiocommunications systems
15. The future
App. 1 Examination syllabus guidelines for the GMDSS GOC
App. 2 The decibel (bB)
App. 3 Producers of ship terminals
App. 4 Satellite telephone country codes
App. 5 Satellite telephone services.


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