The IMO Navigation, Communication, Search and Rescue (NCSR) Subcommittee will begin a review and evaluation of the Iridium application at a meeting in June. If the application is approved, Iridium could begin providing GMDSS services in late 2015.
Iridium's constellation of 66 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites is the only one that provides global coverage, including in the polar regions – a fact that the company hopes will be decisive in the IMO’s deliberations.
The US-based company says that it is already working with recognised maritime communications equipment manufacturers for the production and certification of GMDSS terminals that use the Iridium network, which are expected to be available before the end of 2015.
Today, ship operators generally carry multiple communications systems to meet GMDSS requirements as well as the operational communications needs of the vessel. Iridium says that, if it gains entrance into the GMDSS communications, it will aim to provide a single communications terminal to satisfy both safety and business communications requirements.
The company is confident that its network meets the criteria for the provision of mobile satellite communications to be part of the GMDSS, and adds that GMDSS terminals utilising the Iridium network will be expected to have an operational longevity of nearly 20 years.
"There is a distinct industry need for diversification of service provider options for maritime safety communications, which Iridium is functionally and operationally capable of providing," said Brian Pemberton, director, aviation and maritime line of business, Iridium.
"We see Iridium's inclusion as a GMDSS service provider as being very important to maritime safety and security on a global basis," said Admiral Robert Day, US Coast Guard.
"Our preliminary review of the Iridium network capabilities is positive, and we look forward to the possibility of welcoming a new provider of GMDSS services."