MSDS will continue to offer all the Inmarsat C safety services such as distress alerting, priority messaging and SafetyNET safety information broadcasts, with the addition of: content-rich applications; chart updates; the ability to co-ordinate rescue operations by e-mail as well as voice calls; telemedicine; distress chat, an instantaneous chatroom function between multiple vessels and maritime rescue coordination centres; and a new style maritime safety terminal (MST).
MSDS will be operational over the Inmarsat-4 network, used by FleetBroadband, and also including the Alphasat satellite launched in 2013.
“We are currently working closely with the IMO to bring our new service to market with the aim of eventually gaining SOLAS approval for both FleetBroadband data and voice Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) services,” said Peter Blackhurst, head of Maritime Safety Services at Inmarsat.
The additional capabilities have been developed by data software company, Eixo Digital, which will also be designing a generic maritime safety terminal (MST) in conjunction with GateHouse, a software solutions provider. A prototype is expected to be available later this year and a ready-to-market terminal is planned for Q2 2015.
The MSDS initiative has received funding from the European Space Agency (ESA), which has also awarded a contract to Inmarsat partner Cobham SATCOM to develop an MST delivering MSDS functionality, expected to be available next year.
Inmarsat says that all information accessed over MSDS and Inmarsat C will now be housed on two new maritime safety servers in London, UK, and Burum, the Netherlands.
MSDS will build upon FleetBroadband’s two non-SOLAS voice safety services: the free 505 Emergency Calling facility, and Voice Distress.
The launch date for MSDS is subject to the IMO approval process for SOLAS ships but Inmarsat anticipates that non-SOLAS versions will be available well in advance of that.
“Everything comes to its life’s end and, whilst the Inmarsat C service is still very competent and it will continue well into the 2020s and beyond despite being over 20 years old, (we) would ultimately like to see MSDS accepted as the natural successor to deliver SafetyNET,” said Mr Blackhurst.