GMDSS - opinions please..............

sparkie2182
13th August 2007, 00:21
as a former radio officer, i would be interested in the views of members who have had experience in the g.m.d.s.s. system, including adequacy of training.

Steve Woodward
13th August 2007, 02:20
The C/O on my ship slipped whilst leaning on the GMDSS desk and accidentally put his elbow through the safety cover on the Distress transmit button, a message then apeared on a computer screen " do you wish to cancell this message - Yes or No" sadly not quite getting this he pushed no thinking it meant no dont send the distress.
We were in the Med and he woke up most of the bloody world - it took from 0800 till late in the afternoon to answer every MRCC that we were in fact OK and that it was a simple misunderstanding.

Ivor Lloyd
13th August 2007, 08:47
As another former radio officer .
Please what is g.m.d.s.s
Ivor

RayJordandpo
13th August 2007, 08:51
Only my humble opinion but I think GMDSS has not proved to be the success they were hoping for. In my experience nobody seems to take it seriously. When the alarm goes off everyone rushes to acknowledge it without really checking it out properly. You can always tell when it's Sunday, alarms going off all day long caused by watchkeepers doing their checks and pressing the wrong button!
To be quite honest I (like many deck officers) aren't truly interested in the radio side of my duties and frankly find it a bit of a chore. At least in pre GMDSS days we took an interest in listening to 2182 and jumped on anyone transmitting during silence periods. As far as the course is concerned it was two weeks of sheer boredom (and confusion) for me. No wonder the failure rate was high in the early nineties. In my class of eight at Hulll Tech. four failed including one radio officer, God knows how I passed.
I know it will never happen but as far as I am concerned they should bring back radio operators.
Ray Jordan

gdynia
13th August 2007, 09:01
Definetely agree Ray it was never a good substitute for a RO

Steve Woodward
13th August 2007, 10:29
Ivor
GMDSS stands for Global Maritime Distress and Safety System or Global Maritime Disastrous safety System, your view of this tends to be the former if you are a bean counter in an office looking at how much you have saved getting rid of the Radio Officer and the latter if you are the poor sod stuck with the system.
GMDSS (on the ship) consists of the the following Kit which is connected to batteries if the mains fails Sat C systems, MF/HF Radio, and VHF's and an insatiable battery of printers which print weather for anywhere in the world, nav warnings and of course distress messages usually from the Pacific whilst you are at anchor off the Humber. There is of course the main satcom but this is generally not mains powered but of course is a direct line from the office when aswered the usual comment from an office wallah is : took you a while to answer Captain, where the reply is : yeah it usually takes this long when it's two in the morning and I'm asleep what do you want. Then you find out they want b...er all really.
Training received :- I already had a restricted RT cert so it was deemed I needed none, one of the difficult parts is that every ship you went on seems to have a totally different set up and it takes quite some time to get familiar with it, hopefully nothing happening needing you to actually use the system in the meantime.
Steve W

King Ratt
13th August 2007, 10:40
Reckon this little ditty (author unknown) says it all.

THE R/O’s LAMENT

In a cold and lonely radio shack, where the last receiver stands,
A museum set of manuals held idly in my hands,
With my jargon half forgotten, of my stock-in-trade bereft,
I wonder what's ahead of me - the only RO left.
With the office sprouting gadgets like a nightmare Christmas tree.
There are keyboards for computers, where my Morse key used to be.
And I couldn't read steam morse 'midst this lunatic array,
For at every height and angle there's a visual display.
The proud, efficient Sparkie has been rendered obsolete
By electronic equipment fitted in the Merchant Fleet,
And tho' a signal's through the system in the blinking of an eye,
No-one's got the time, to even make a cup of kye.
To delete the human error, to erase a noble breed,
We rely upon a microchip, we put our faith in speed.
We press a key, and make a switch, and spin a little disc,
it's one ton per cent efficient - and never mind the risk.
But again I may be needed, for the time will surely come
When there's a fault within the system and the modern stuff is dumb,
When the satellites are useless but morse is there for free -
T’was good enough for old Marconi, and it's good enough for me.

sparkie2182
13th August 2007, 23:35
when i was a cadet r/o..... i was trained solely on marconi marine equipment.
when i was at sea.....i virtually never sailed with marconi marine equipment.......but with many hybrid systems.
the depth of traning was sufficient to overcome this, however.

with the brief g.m.d.s.s. training given, it is obvious that the newcomer deck officer is going to encounter problems on the "hands on" side of the business, as some manufacturers have far more user friendly equipment than others.

Ivor Lloyd
13th August 2007, 23:58
Steve
Many thanks for the explanation. A bit out of my league all this but thats progress for you.
Regards
Ivor

sparkie2182
14th August 2007, 00:07
hello ivor...........

try.........

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Maritime_Distress_Safety_System

for a good overview

K urgess
14th August 2007, 00:23
"You never know what you got 'til it's gone."

Since I signed off my last ship 30 years ago (9th July 1977) and resigned from Marconi (effective sometime around 1st September 1977) I've totally ignored changes in the job I used to do. It wasn't until recently that I realised, rather faced up to, the fact that sparkies had gone forever.

It seems that all is not well, which doesn't surprise me in the least.
Thanks for the explanations of GMDSS and the associated problems.

I'm glad I went to sea in the the twilight days of the golden age of the British Merchant Navy. Maybe a little earlier would've helped me miss the crazy days of the ship management experiments and VLCCs.

That's a thought. I never did resign from the Merch so does that mean I'm still in?[=P]

Kris

sparkie2182
14th August 2007, 01:16
we are all still in it marconiman........

thats why we are here.

John Briggs
14th August 2007, 03:07
I never sailed with GMDSS but having obtained a GMDSS certificate and revalidating it 5 years later (still valid until 2010) and being involved in maritime regulation I have had a close involvement with seafarers using the system. Almost without exception no one has a good word for it! False alarms, distraction for the OOW, difficult to operate, etc., etc.

For myself, I always enjoyed chatting with sparkie when I was on watch and he was usually invaluable for taking over the aldis at times.

Ivor Lloyd
14th August 2007, 09:05
hello ivor...........

try.........

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Maritime_Distress_Safety_System

for a good overview

Sparkie2182

Wow !
Many thanks for that. I feel a bit more enlightened now
73's
Ivor

sparkie2182
14th August 2007, 21:08
my pleasure ivor........

there is quite a bit to it..........:)

73's om

nw ere qru

tusu

va

Robinj
20th August 2007, 15:54
hello ivor...........

try.........

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Maritime_Distress_Safety_System

for a good overview

Like Ivor didn't have a clue, still don't and glad it came after my time. Many thanks

Pat McCardle
20th August 2007, 17:36
Bring back the Sparky..........................We might even get a bar too!!

K urgess
20th August 2007, 19:03
I did hear that the radio room and sparkie's cabin on the later Bankboats built in Russia, had been turned into the ship's bar.
I don't think they would like us back.[=P]

freddythefrog
18th April 2008, 22:54
One day someone will blow all those satellites out of the sky and they will not be able to communicate at all.
Thats when us ex sparkies will come into our own.!!
We can also charge them British Gas and BP and Shell prices as well.
Keep your morse up to speed lads----they will soon be calling you back to sea---you can then name your own salary! ftf

freddythefrog
21st April 2008, 12:34
Sparkie 2182
have you read the story about the PRINSENDAM/PJTA??
Go to http://www.qsl.net/n1ea/ you can actually hear the sos sent out by Prisendam on October 4th 1980, a bit before GMDSS came out, the ships modern hi tech SATCOM 2182, mf ssb, vhf distress signals all FAILED to attract any attention whatsoever. This was a cruise ship with 535 passengers and crew on board!! however the dependable 500KHZ sos was sent out and was picked up by 350 stations!! including the US vlcc Williamsburgh/wgoa who picked up the survivors.
Also on this webpage there is a box selection SOS SAVES LIVES click on here to read a presentation made to to US congress regarding PROPOSED
satellite/ship distress systems envisaged for the future GMDSS, the guy who wrote this was one of the R/O's on the VLCC who picked up the distress.
He seems to have seen the writing on the wall well before GMDSS came into force. Hope you enjoy it, it will certainly open your eyes and also enforce what most sparkies and mates think about GMDSS!! regards ftf

Dave Wilson
21st April 2008, 12:49
One day someone will blow all those satellites out of the sky and they will not be able to communicate at all.
Thats when us ex sparkies will come into our own.!!
We can also charge them British Gas and BP and Shell prices as well.
Keep your morse up to speed lads----they will soon be calling you back to sea---you can then name your own salary! ftf

Dream On!!

freddythefrog
21st April 2008, 13:05
Dave
Is this related to my 1st comment or the last about the PRINSENDAM??
suggest you may also like to read it, may also open your eyes as well.!
Also has links to another vessel in distress that could not get his messages out because ship in such rough weather they kept losing the satellite
alignment and signal loss. What about not long ago that the USA turned their satellites off for 6 hours, no communication, no gps, back to DR's and guessometry!! Yes i do like to dream as well-----but maybe it will not be a dream. time will tell. regards ftf

Dave Wilson
21st April 2008, 13:21
Freddy,
The comment related to your first.
I would agree with your second post.

Dave

K urgess
21st April 2008, 13:31
FTF
Your link seems to have gone woopsy.
Try here (http://www.qsl.net/n1ea/).
Cheers
Kris

freddythefrog
21st April 2008, 15:15
KRIS, ooops!! thanks , did not notice that hiccup. cheers.
Dave, thanks.
Speaking to a Gmdss lecturer and examiner this last week, I was told that
a lot of people doing the Gmdss course cope reasonably well, but however on the equipment they have just learnt and been examined on, but on joining their ships with other manufacturers equipment on, some do not have a clue,
one candidate taking one and a half hours to send out a distress!!!!!!!!
Good job it was only a simulator.
I certainly would not have liked to been on his ship.
Give me the old fashioned sparks on 500 khz anyday, they would have the message out in minutes if not sooner. ftf

Ron Stringer
22nd April 2008, 15:46
Come on Freddy! Play the game.

The incident that you describe was nothing to do with GMDSS nor did it involve any of the alerting systems that are used in the GMDSS. You might as well have pointed out that the passengers' cellphones didn't bring any ships or aircraft to the rescue!

At that time the Comsat-General satellite system was a privately-owned venture, run by a commercial organisation for profit. It made no pretensions to offer a distress and safety service although, like any other component of the telephone network, could be used to make calls to search and rescue authorities (or anyone else with a telephone). There was no requirement to provide any emergency or reserve electrical supplies to the satcom equipment and its antenna stabilisation system did not have to be capable of operating when the ship was other than virtually on an even keel.

Not surprising then that the satcom did not remain operational under the conditions shown in the photograph. To compare that optional business communication service set-up with the purpose-built emergency alerting and communication arrangements that comprised the mandatory radiotelegraph station aboard passenger ships at that time, is not comparing like with like.

When the GMDSS was introduced over a decade later, provisions were made for reliable distress alerting even in the most adverse conditions (even in the absence of the Radio Officer or any other person) which not only provided shore stations with the fact that there was an emergency, but could also provide them with an accurate position of the vessel or survival craft, automatically updated every few hours. Many lives have been saved as a consequence.

The 500 kHz morse telegraphy system had many good points but it was introduced at the beginning of the 20th Century; by the end of that century it was time to take advantage of the many improvements in communications that had been developed in the interim.

You can not pick and choose which bits of progress are adopted by mankind, however much you may be attached to that with which you are familiar. You didn't choose to promulgate your views by writing a letter, using a quill pen and ink, to each and every member of SN, you used the internet. This way of communicating with many people is faster, simpler, less expensive and more convenient than the old methods with which we were familiar. So it is with GMDSS.

Cap'n Pete
22nd April 2008, 16:08
Ron is quite correct in pointing out that we all use modern technology to communicate. However, this thread is about GMDSS and most of the technology this system uses is now 20 years old and well past it's sell-by date, particularly DSC. GMDSS has failed to keep pace with modernn technology and is not user-friendly.

Modern ships officers are computer literate and are be able to use any computer program, mobile phone device or any other item of modern technology within minutes of being aquainted, with or without having the manual. However, I've known officers who've used this equipment now for 20 years and are still stumped when it comes to sending anything other than the most basic distress call.

GMDSS was introduced solely to replace radio officers. It is incapable of doing the job it was designed for and very little research and development has been undertaken since it's introduction to make it more effective in saving life at sea or to make it easier to use.

GMDSS is fitted by shipowners because the rules require it. However, very few of us ever expect to have to use it in anger.

Next to the satellite telephone I keep the numbers of all the Rescue Co-ordination centres on my route pattern. In cases of emergency, I do the same as anybody ashore would do - I pick up the phone and dial. Quite frankly, I do not care if the satellite telephone is not part of my GMDSS equipment - I will use whatever means will safeguard the lives of my crew.

James_C
22nd April 2008, 16:16
Pete,
As regards your last about RCC numbers, I recall an incident in 2005 when we responded to a VHF RT distress call from a yacht in the Gulf of Oman. Now seeing as that stretch of water is remarkably busy with tankers and box boats it should come as no surprise that everyone, and I mean everyone ignored their distress calls, it fell to us, a fully loaded VLCC 60 miles away to respond, yet our AIS told us there were literally dozens of ships closer.
In the event we headed over and picked them up, however we did of course try to relay the message to the Omani Coastguard by just about every means possible - DSC, Sat-B, Sat-C, Mini-M and our VSAT system with no response. Eventually had to phone our agent in Fujairah who found out they'd changed all their area codes and email addresses in Muscat, seemingly without telling anyone. We did of course send in a Hydrographic note and the ALRS was updated in due course.
We did not expect this kind of behaviour from the Omanis.

Cap'n Pete
22nd April 2008, 16:24
I too had a similar incident in the Flores Sea a few years ago when an Australian fishing boat was sinking in the middle of a busy shipping lane and nobody was taking a blind bit of notice to the VHF distress call.

Long story, but I finally got hold of Canberra and the rescue went according to plan.

The problem was getting rid of the survivors. It was arranged to land them at Thursday Island in the pilot boat, but when we got there the Australian customs wanted me to pay for their air fares back to their home port which was Freemantle. I then spent 20 minutes on the blower to Canberra RCC where I told them that I would feed the Aussie fishermen to the sharks before I would pay for their airfares. As it was, they never paid me back for all the smokes and beer I gave them on passage!

James_C
22nd April 2008, 16:30
The Aussies work in mysterious ways on that score.
They would have flown from Cairns would they not? From what I remember of Thursday Island is that there was a small airstrip suitable for light aircraft only and that was only occasionally used by charter flights when the Pilots changed over.
I thought, and still think that the way they handled the 'Tampa' situation was nothing short of a disgrace.

znord737
22nd April 2008, 19:07
I left my sea-going career quite a time before GMDSS came into operation but with all the banter going backwards and forwards I could see the demise of the Ships Radio Officer was on the way.

In many countries the Maritime Coast Stations were a way of generating income. The demise of the Radio Officer and the implementation of GMDSS
Suddenly saw many countries now with no possibility of earning income from their coast stations.

I am not against progress, technology is advancing at such a rate that we all should be able to benefit from advancements. Some thought should also be given as to the effects that technology advancements will have on the socio economics

From a personal viewpoint I do not believe that the Radio Officers Union were strong enough or perhaps did not have the will to fight the case. It would have been a good idea if some plan had been made to automatically re-train Radio Officers to enable them to be still responsible for communications and at the same time maintain all the electronics onboard.

As far as I am aware there was a Marine Electronics Degree Course instigated by various training establishments covering all shipboard electronics to which the Radio Officer had to fund himself. I do not believe that there were many take-ups on this option by ex Radio Officers or Ship-owners. The ship-owner did not want the burden of another monthly salary so the opportunity for extending one shipboard career was severely limited.

The GMDSS System was like manna from heaven for many ship owners. They saw an opportunity to do away with a very important position on board ship and also save them a lot of money.

The idea or concept for GMDSS emanated from the ITU in Geneva who were so divorced from the shipping world it was untrue. They quickly drummed up support from member ITU Nations who had a strong Ship Owner Lobby. That was enough to set the UN wheels in motion, once that happens there is no stopping them. It would be fair to say that although Radio Equipment Manufacturers were involved in most of the ITU discussions regarding GMDSS, the Ship Owner Lobby really drove the project.

The future users of the GMDSS were never consulted and asked for their opinion as to how they would like the system to work and the feasibility of it being operated by Master's and Mates. The whole system was foisted on them - they did not want it and in use many turned the system off because of the distracting nature.

I attended one International GMDSS Convention held in Plymouth. Radio Regulatory Representatives together with Masters/Ship-owners from
Virtually every country in the World was also there. The users (Masters and Mates) were decrying the system saying it was far to distracting on the bridge, One Senior Master of a large Cross Channel Ferry Company said all his Company Vessels switched it off on passage across the channel as there was enough stress navigating across the English Channel without the addition of the GMDSS Unit blaring away.

Regarding training on GMDSS Equipment there was a basic design concept flaw in that there was no International Standardisation of the GMDSS Console/Equipment and its layout.

Every International Manufacturer had to meet the Technical Specification for the GMDSS Equipment but they all had different ideas as to which was the best operational sequence.

Every manufacturer had a different sequence of push buttons/controls for operation. The button sequence that worked on one equipment was different on the next and so it went on and on.

From a technical point of view obtaining a GMDSS Certificate was fine but as soon as one arrived at your new ship lo and behold, the GMDSS Console and its layout was totally different to what one had been trained on!

One has to accept the fact that Masters and Mates the majority with an above average high IQ. They are not Radio Officers/Engineers and cannot be expected to be able to fathom out what in heavens name do I need to do to get this bag of tricks to work. I have to say that feedback I have had indicated that a large majority manage but put themselves under additional unnecessary stress which they can do without as their job is stressful enough anyway.

I understand that the UN wheels are already turning at a furious rate for the replacement of the GMDSS to another Global Distress System. Lets hope they have learned something from their mistakes with the current GMDSS system and will give some important thought to getting feedback from the users

Znord737

Ron Stringer
22nd April 2008, 23:18
From a personal viewpoint I do not believe that the Radio Officers Union were strong enough or perhaps did not have the will to fight the case. It would have been a good idea if some plan had been made to automatically re-train Radio Officers to enable them to be still responsible for communications and at the same time maintain all the electronics onboard.

The Radio Officers' representatives opposed anything that did not involve a manual watch being maintained on 500 kHz aboard all ships (regardless of tonnage or trade route). To make the R/O responsible for maintenance outside the radio room would have interrupted that continuous watch and the unions were not prepared to even consider such an approach. As a provider of R/Os and of Radio-Electronics Officers to ships and offshore units, MIMCo wanted to continue to build the onboard maintenance/repair role of the R/O but sadly the unions were absolutely opposed to that. By gambling everything on keeping the 500 kHz watch (and losing), they not only shot themselves and their members in the foot, the ricochet also hit the suppliers of R/Os.

The idea or concept for GMDSS emanated from the ITU in Geneva who were so divorced from the shipping world it was untrue. They quickly drummed up support from member ITU Nations who had a strong Ship Owner Lobby. That was enough to set the UN wheels in motion, once that happens there is no stopping them. It would be fair to say that although Radio Equipment Manufacturers were involved in most of the ITU discussions regarding GMDSS, the Ship Owner Lobby really drove the project.

You are a little awry there znord, the ITU is not involved in radio carriage requirements or the GMDSS, that is strictly the province of IMO (another UN agency). Those promoting the case for GMDSS were the USA, the Scandinavian countries, Germany and the UK. Their wish was to achieve operating efficiencies in their SAR services by replacing the two separate radio alerting systems in use at sea (the 500 kHz morse telegraphy system in use on ships over 1600 grt and the 2182 kHz radiotelephony system used on the far greater number of ships under 1600grt) by a single system. The unions wanted to do this by making all ships carry 3 radio officers, to keep a round-the-clock watch on 500 kHz. The promoters wanted to be able to provide one system for all ships, preferably one that could provide for a reduced number of shore stations maintaining continuous, automated, radio watchkeeping.

Their intention was to remove any reference to the size of a vessel and equip ships, regardless of their tonnage, so that they could alert at least one shore station from anywhere on their trade route. Thus if the 'Queen Victoria' became a cross-Channel passenger ferry between Dover and Calais, it would only need to carry short range radio equipment to reach coastguard stations on the French or UK coasts. A 300 grt vessel crossing the Atlantic, however, would need long range alerting and communication equipment capable of reaching shore stations along its route.

Aboard ship, the promoters wanted to incorporate newer technology that could, given appropriate instruction, be used by any member of the ship's crew.

They also did not see the advantage of a man maintaining a listening watch on 500 kHz for only part of the day. If it was acceptable for an automated watch to be maintained for 16+ hours each day, then why not for 24 hours a day? So they had ships carry automated receivers that would raise an alarm aboard when triggered by signals from shore stations. A vessel in difficulty would alert a shore station, a Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) would decide what search and rescue actions were required and put them into operation. If assistance was required from ships, the RCC would alert those ships via the automated watchkeeping system, regardless of the time of day aboard the ship.

As you can see, the objectives were all operational and not aimed at any one person or position aboard the ship. However as the R/O had previously performed some of the functions, he was the most affected by the outcome.

The future users of the GMDSS were never consulted and asked for their opinion as to how they would like the system to work and the feasibility of it being operated by Master's and Mates. The whole system was foisted on them - they did not want it and in use many turned the system off because of the distracting nature.

Sorry to disagree. All seagoing personnel were represented at IMO's GMDSS discussions by various unions and associations of officers, Master Mariners and even Ports and Harbour Authorities. One or more representatives of ICAO were present throughout. I don't know what they reported back to their members, or how representative their input and comments were at the IMO meetings, but IMO certainly involved them fully.

One Senior Master of a large Cross Channel Ferry Company said all his Company Vessels switched it off on passage across the channel as there was enough stress navigating across the English Channel without the addition of the GMDSS Unit blaring away.

As the alerting systems are digital and fully automatic, I cannot understand what GMDSS equipment was 'blaring away'. Normally the DSC (whether VHF, MF or HF) sat quietly and 'listened'. Only if it received a signal addressed to it (or to 'all stations') did it produce any sound.

Regarding training on GMDSS Equipment there was a basic design concept flaw in that there was no International Standardisation of the GMDSS Console/Equipment and its layout. Every manufacturer had a different sequence of push buttons/controls for operation. The button sequence that worked on one equipment was different on the next and so it went on and on.

From a technical point of view obtaining a GMDSS Certificate was fine but as soon as one arrived at your new ship lo and behold, the GMDSS Console and its layout was totally different to what one had been trained on!

Since when has equipment been 'standardised', at sea or anywhere else? How many ships' engine controls are laid out to an internationally-recognised standard pattern? Every car you drive has the minor controls in a different place. Every class of railway locomotive has a different control arrangement from other classes. Every type of airliner has major differences in control arrangements from another type. Other industries overcome this by training the operatives on the particular equipment they are to use. The commercial pilot of a Boeing 747 cannot be requested to fly a Boeing 737 (even though it is much smaller) without undergoing further familiarisation training on the 737. That some shipowners choose not to provide training for their shipboard personnel is not a failing that should be laid at the door of the GMDSS or IMO. Look a little closer to home.

GMDSS is definitely not the best distress and alerting system that man can devise, but it is what we have. Keep in mind that although it is now over 30 years since it was first proposed, its predecessor was not replaced for almost 90 years. It would seem optimistic to expect a replacement in the near future.

freddythefrog
22nd April 2008, 23:19
RON
If you read my post again you will see that i did mention this incident with the Prinsendam was BEFORE the introduction of GMDSS. I was trying to show that the initial satellite system installed on that ship FAILED, so did 2182, so did vhf ch16. Is that good or bad??
It was bad for the 535 passengers and crew on board the ship with NOBODY coming to help them.
I was trying to say that 500khz morse transmission did the trick to attract attention and 350 stations received the distress calls, including AWARUA
from the gulf of Alaska, whats that 6 or 7 k miles?? across Pacific.
Anyway they were lucky to be all picked up alive.
With these other systems failing, the r/o who wrote to the us congress
regarding the NEW system they were thinking about and designing at THAT
time was to warn them of a possible future catastrophy if they did not get it right from day one, which they did not, especially with all the false alarms that were generated in the early years, as one other writer on here also says
the bridge watch officers are too busy to keep running over to the radio and
listen for false distress alerts, so what do they do, they turn it off and get on with the navigation of the ship. So then the REAL guys in distress unfortunately would not be heard by the ships that have turned off the sets,
it could be one of the closest ships to them----.
As another writer on here says that different ships are fitted with different manufactures kit for GMDSS, maybe the powers that be and the manufactures should all get together and design ONE single manufactured system and that this system would then be used for GMDSS training, also be fitted to ALL ships so that some standardization exists regarding equipment for GMDSS and so that if you have done the course and passed you will then meet SAME equipment and be up to speed and understand it and should be no dithering when it needs to be used in ernest.
I am not against new technology in the slightest, in fact i quite enjoy the new things that we come up against in our daily lives, providing it works properly and safely, internet is great, when it works, which it does most of the time. But when it does not what do we do?? back to the quill and pen and ink and the gpo postal service.
The aerial stabilisation i was on about was to do with a smaller vessel
in distress and she could not keep satellite alignment------nothing to do with the picture of the list on the Prinsendam---- but unfortunately this ships i believe was lost with all lives. Again this was BEFORE Gmdss was out and was still on the drawing board and congress was being warned about the possible consequences when it all went ---s up!!
Thanks James C. Captain Pete. and Znord 737
for your comments and views, very enlightening indeed.
What does sparkie2182 think about GMDSS.?? Regards to all ftf

Ron Stringer
22nd April 2008, 23:57
... this thread is about GMDSS and most of the technology this system uses is now 20 years old and well past it's sell-by date, particularly DSC.

As shipowners (and flag state administrators) are notably reluctant to adopt systems and equipment that is new and untried in a maritime application, and as new international treaties take anything between 10 and 20 years to take effect, that is how it is, Pete. GMDSS used 1960s and 1970s radiotelex and DSC technology. When the GMDSS requirements were being created in 1976, that technology had been extensively proven in use on point-to-point use both ashore and on offshore oil development units. Even so it was not adopted into mandatory carriage requirements for all ships until 1996. Satellite communications were only just being introduced (1976) and there was no way that shipowners and the authorities were even prepared to contemplate their use as part of the GMDSS at that time. Not until the late 1980s, and following all kinds of assurances from INMARSAT, were the INMARSAT-C terminal and SafetyNet services admitted for use as emergency communications in the GMDSS.

GMDSS was introduced solely to replace radio officers.

Not true, Pete. Its objective was to improve the distress and safety arrangements for ships of all sizes (not just the 20,000 larger ones that carried R/Os but also the 25,000 smaller ships that did not) and also to reduce the burden on coastal administrations. To maintain two different monitoring and communications systems (500kHz morse telegraphy and 2182kHz radiotelephony) all along the coast of a large country was very expensive. The existing systems were only short/medium range and did not provide cover outside a few hundred miles from the coast. It was believed possible to provide a better, longer range service for less money. The loss of the R/O was just collateral damage, not part of the plan.


I do not care if the satellite telephone is not part of my GMDSS equipment - I will use whatever means will safeguard the lives of my crew.

Quite right, Pete. In emergency you are permitted and required to use whatever means available to alert others to your danger and to seek assistance. However unless the satellite equipment used is assured of electrical and antenna guidance inputs under emergency conditions - which may involve electrical blackouts and severe platform tilting - you may find that you are shouting down a disconnected circuit. Satellite equipment provided as part of the GMDSS is configured to accommodate such conditions.

So as usual, it is horse for courses. Better to choose the right equipment for the job.

Ron Stringer
23rd April 2008, 00:59
RON
If you read my post again you will see that i did mention this incident with the Prinsendam was BEFORE the introduction of GMDSS.

Sorry, Freddy, clearly I misunderstood the purpose of your linking of something that happened a decade or two before GMDSS, into a thread asking for members' opinions of the way that GMDSS is working. I am not sure that I appreciate the relevance of the link.

Those that have worked 500 kHz at sea are aware that, on occasions, extremely long range communication can be achieved. When running from Ras Tanura to Trinidad, I used to call ZSC every night in the South Atlantic after passing the Cape of GH, just to see how far away I could make contact. Usually managed to make it to the Equator before I could no longer get him. Unfortunately such ranges are neither routine nor reliable enough to rely on in emergency, so improvements were necessary. Hence the GMDSS.

The comment about people switching off the DSC watchkeeping equipment leaves me cold. I don't know who are the stupidest, those that push the alerting buttons to see what happens or those that turn off the receiver. About on par with the yobs that dial 999 and report non-existent house fires. Shame those people have gone to sea.

James_C
23rd April 2008, 02:07
Ron,
If you've ever been in a busy shipping lane trying to negotiate traffic and then finding some idiot has sent a spurious/false DSC Distress alert, which is then relayed to all stations (not ashore) by yet more (dozens) of idiots who prefer to relay than take any responsibility and report it themselves. Then with the resultant multitude of continuous DSC distress alarms, in some cases going on continuously for HOURS then you might take a different attitude. Temporarily switching off the gear is something I've seen often, and usually the only way to provide 'peace' especially when you're struggling to hear some Monkey screaming at you on Ch 16 demanding to know your 'intentions' because he doesn't know how to apply the Collision Regulations.
The system might be an OK idea in principle, but it's horrifically poor in practice. The overwhelming majority of traffic tends to be of the spuroius/false kind, i.e. Lats and Longs such as 99.99N 999.99E, or MMSI numbers such as 000000000, or 123456789. Not only is there major problems with the users, but I've also increasingly noticed RCC's (including several prominent European stations) practising some of the aforementioned nonsense - and that's something I thought I'd never see.
The problem is, that to those in positions of power and authority it's great because as usual the people who have to use the kit just aren't listened to and are ignored. The level of competence just isn't there, and nor will it EVER be there whilst GMDSS is but yet another time consuming pain in the proverbial foisted on increasingly overworked Mates.
I'd challenge any IMO/Flag State/Shipowner/etc wallah to show me a Deck Officer who would not truthfully welcome back Radio Officers with open arms.

Shipbuilder
23rd April 2008, 10:17
I am indifferent to GMDSS. I qualified as a radio officer in early 1960 and remained at sea until late 1992. From 1982 onwards, I sailed with Satcoms, but when I was required to send a distress, the satcoms didn't work because the power failure had upset the gyro & it didn't stabilise for two hours, by that time, our engineroom was flooded with CO2 & a tanker (summoned by the emergency transmitter) was standing by!

In 1973, I walked out of the Advanced Marine Electronics course because it was well beyond my capabilities as far as the theory went, though I could cope well enough with practical things. I never wanted to be an electronics officer. I was told at the time that I had destroyed my career, but the opposite seemed to be the case & by 1990, I was radio officer aboard the brand new passenger liner RMS ST. HELENA after 11 years in the old vessel of the same name. Although by 1990, the writing was on the wall as far as R/Os were concerned, I found myself working harder than ever before. 8 hours in the radio room doing unskilled satcomms where the new rule seemed to be "why use ten words when several hundred will do just as well!" Off duty hours were spent all over the ship repairing or trying to repair computers, navigational equipment, fire alarms, public address systems, TV sets, videos, private radio equipments, passengers hearing aids, cassette recorders, digital watches, false teeth ete etc.

In the end I simply "couldn't stand the heat anymore," so I "got out of the kitchen" & left at the age of 48 to take up a new career as ship model builder, writer, marine historian. I knew it would be a success because I had the best start in the world, I had been a ship's radio officer and the skills picked up along the way in that very humble profession had made me a "jack of all trades & master of several!"

When I look at modern ships, I have not the slightest desire to return - my Merchant Navy has gone & will never return. Even if they do bring R/Os back (& I doubt it), it would not be the same life, you only have to read the letters in TELEGRAPH to see there is certain amount of discontent.

Building model ships keeps me familiar with the type of ships I loved & I don't actually feel I have left, because the seas of imagination are rather more acceptable to me than what it would be like had I remained.

So, now that radio officers have been replaced by radio operators, I take a great satisfaction that someone else will have to correct the ALRS books.

I never regretted my years as an R/O, but I never regretted the decision to leave either.

Captain Smurf
23rd April 2008, 18:56
I go back on watch in 10 minutes.
I shall resume the endless task of trying to get a response from a station, anywhere, to a DSC test call.

What I am likely to get, however, is a headache from the number of alarms which sound at all times of the day on the modern "integrated" bridge.
Supplemented a few times a watch by the odd "All Ships" alert from the radio station, which is actually louder and more "alerting" than the equivalent noise when we receive a "Distress" alert. Then there may be a distress, somewhere in the world. And i shall spend a large part of the watch silencing the many relays and acknowledgements which will follow.

Thank god I'm not working the DP console as well, as I was not too long ago, when every possible alarm, and the odd telephone, seemed to require my immediate attention all at once.

Still, not really a problem if sat in an office ashore, is it :sweat:

Cap'n Pete
23rd April 2008, 20:05
GMDSS is only a problem to those of us who have to use it every day of our working lives. While most of us who remember radio officers will be sympathic to their plight, their demise no longer impinges on our daily routines as it once did. However, GMDSS is here to stay in one form or another.

GMDSS is a joke. It always was a joke and always will be a joke. I do not agree with Ron on why it was introduced - the IMO and the radio industry can say what it likes but as far as those of us who have employed at sea for more than 40 years, GMDSS was just an excuse to get rid of radio officers.

James_C and others have detailed the problems with false alerts and idiots who keep acknowledging distress alerts until they are blue in the face and why otherwise sensible officers cancels GMDSS alerts unread.

I take the saving of life at sea very seriously. Seafarers have a right to assume that in an emergency they will be able to send a distress message that will be acted upon by other ships and people in authority ashore. GMDSS does not give them that assurance - PURE AND SIMPLE.

K urgess
23rd April 2008, 20:49
Sounds like it could do with a bit of bringing into the 21st century.
It can't be beyond modern technology to filter distress messages by location and responses.
If a sparkie can do it I'm sure an industrial PC can do it.
Now that a lot of PCs and PLCs have been certified for use in emergency stop situations, failsafe and redundancy, there's no reason why they can't be used in these situations.
As has been said, the system needs a good overhaul.
Sounds like sailing with an Oceanspan and Atalanta when there were Crusaders and Apollos about.[=P]

freddythefrog
23rd April 2008, 22:18
I think Captain Pete, James C, Captain Smurf have certainly summed up
the Gmdss situation admirably and truthfully. well done to you all. ftf

3knots
23rd April 2008, 22:38
If you can't take the mountain to the man, you have to take the man to the mountain. In the case of GMDSS, the regulations regarding equipment specifications may well have been met by each manufacturer, but the vastly differing types of display equipment for units does nothing but frighten the user. Surely the time has come to pressure the IMO into dragging GMDSS into the 21st Century? We already have the capability to do this. A single/common display on a PC screen would do the trick. These days people are computer literate. Back-up equipment equipment, and adequate battery power can be supplied. Spurious calls could be filtered out - what earthly use are twenty relays of obviously false Lats. and Longs.? The user would feel comfortable faced with the same computer screen in every ship. It can be done, and the sooner the better.

However, that will sadly not bring back good old Sparks! And that is a shame, because the time he is most sorely missed is when something goes wrong, such as equipment breakdown or an emergency situation, and the Master/Mates have to get out instruction manuals and try to repair equipment - or get on the satphone to a shore based repairer to be talked through the repair. (Resorting to the 'Reset' button or re-installation of software is often the fastest way to solve problems.) I do miss leaning on the bridge wing railings on a warm tropical night having a coffee and a chat with Sparks!

Shipbuilder
24th April 2008, 08:11
I really wonder if 21st century technology is all that it is cracked up to be in regard to computers etc. Every week, I delete about 400 SPAM e-mails from my system, most of which are either objectionable or dowright illegal. International authorities seem to be completely inacapable of doing anything about it!

500Khz was very effective because there was always someone there. During the day it was a seething mass round the UK coasts, only stopping (with high discipline) at the silence periods. Even during the night watches aboard passenger liners in the South Atlantic, I was always aware that there was some activity whatever the hour.

As for costs in removing R/Os, other cost were incurred in their place. Repair attempts beyond very basic things seemed to be frowned on. During a sactom course at the factory, I was told that once I had identified the faulty board, it would be replaced at a "nominal cost" as the faulty board would be repaired at the factory. When I asked how much that was likely to be, I was told "about 2,000! In the interests of my company, I kicked up about this and was laughed at by the sales rep who said "a mere bagatelle for a shipping company!"

As I said, I am not suggesting a return to 500Khz or otherwise, it is nothing to do with me anymore - just a couple of observations.

BA204259
24th April 2008, 10:30
...I do miss leaning on the bridge wing railings on a warm tropical night having a coffee and a chat with Sparks!

Brings back some great memories 3knots, one of the many things I've missed over the years. Often think about it and the people I have known.:)

znord737
29th May 2008, 17:56
Gentlemen,
A really very well thought out and useful dialogue about the pro's and con's of the GMDSS System.

What a pity the IMO/Radio Equipment Manufacturers were not in possession of this information before they decided on the GMDSS System.

With apologies to Ron - I seem to have wound him up with my disertation on the subject. The ITU nonclementure would have been well known to nearly all ex R/O's, to the best of my knowledge the majority of publications in the Radio Room emenated from the ITU - that is apart from the Admiralty List of Radio Signals .Tthe ITU was referred to as the originator of the GMDSS
and so would have been recognised by nearly all ex R/O's whereas the IMO may not have been. Ron you are correct of course the originator should have been highlighted as the IMO

I for one never had any representation from the IMO asking me what I thought about the system neither did I ever get any feedback from the ROU or the IMO or from Radio Companies for that matter - perhaps I was less than diligent and should have asked, not that I would have been able to change anything anyway.

I still maintain that the whole project was driven by the ultra strong lobby
of the ship owners who wanted to reduce operational costs. It was not just the hire of the R/0's but also the hire of the radio equipment which was a considerable saving for the shipowner.

After I retired from my sea going career I became involved in the development
and subsequent marketing of GMDSS Equipment . The amount of time and countless man hours I wasted attending meetings endeavouring to get clarification on operational issues begs belief.

The UK had their own views, the USA likewise, The Scandanavians and Australians were at loggerheads with everyone else. It is no wonder the whole system turned out as it did - it did not even have a fighting chance.

Virtually every country had their own interpretation of the operational requirements and in-country regulatory authorities gave their own views as to what was their interpretation as to what was required.

To Generalise one has only to look at the manning requirements for a 10,000 ton general cargo vessel these days , one is lucky to find a complement of 20
comprising Officers/Crew. During the 50/60/70s the manning levels were averaging 30 -32 .

It is all down to costs , reduced manning is one way to reduce operational costs. Registering the vessels is countries which have a low taxes is also used. Our own Governments in the UK could have prevented the loss of UK tonnage had they given some additional benefits and tax privilages to the UK ship owners which they decided not to do.

The UK had one of the finest and most reputable Merchant Shipping Fleets in the world, look at it now , decimated and possibly totalling no more than 300 - 400 UK Registered Merchant Ships. Am not sure of the precise totals but it certainly is low.

The comments given by all contributors on this thread cover more than adequately the shortcomings of the present system. I have to submit to the majority of views on the thread the only reason GMDSS was instigated was to save costs.

There is a disaster out there of Titanic magnitude waiting to happen , it is only a matter of time!

I am not sure whether MIMCO ever designed their own GMDSS System but from memory the GMDSS Company I worked for supplied badged versions to
MIMCO . I guess that one could categorise that by saying that perhaps MIMCO gave up completely. What a pity a founding company of Marine Communications, an Innovator and for many years a World Leader in this field
just about disappeard along with a long list of other reputable Marine Radio Companies.

Znord 737