Inmarsat and Iridium race to maritime-distress certification heats up

Caption: Inmarsat set to provide GMDSS services via Fleet Broadband in 2018. Credit: Inmarsat


Inmarsat chief executive Rupert Pearce has said that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has rejected rival mobile satellite service provider Iridium’s bid to provide maritime distress communication services, sparking a war of words between the two companies.


Pearce made the statement on a conference call to investors on 9 March, stating that Inmarsat was “delighted to receive approval from the IMO to launch an FB [Fleet Broadband] variant of our GMDSS [Global Maritime Distress and Safety System] service, keeping us at the forefront with the maritime safety innovation in this century.” He added, “By contrast, it was instructive, at the same IMO session, Iridium failed to get the so necessary approval to be authorised with GMDSS.”


Iridium, however, maintains that will provide GMDSS services at the end of the year, following expected approval from the IMO at a meeting in May. It stressed that while a “small minority” of IMO governments, including Britain and Germany, said they were against the Iridium proposal that the assessment carried out by International Mobile Satellite Organization found it “satisfied the IMO’s functional and operational criteria to provide mobile satellite GMDSS services.” 


Speaking to SAS, a spokesperson from Iridium said, “We aren't sure why Inmarsat felt the need to say that on their quarterly earnings call, however it's nice to know we're on their minds. Their characterisation of the IMO’s activities or outcomes does not accurately reflect the proceedings or procedures of the IMO and we look forward to the next IMO meeting in May.”


Inmarsat did not respond to Iridum’s comments. However, an Inmarsat spokesman told SAS that it is understood that the IMO Sub-Committee meeting on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) will recommend that the Maritime Safety Committee in May drafts a resolution containing a statement of recognition for Fleet Safety as a Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) service.


They added: “This is very positive for Inmarsat and, as the only service so recommended by NCSR to MSC, represents a significant milestone towards recognition of Fleet Safety by IMO.”

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