GMDSS Distress procedures and alerts

C23034 | 07 July 2023

Notice to: Ship Owners/ Managers/ Operators / Surveyors/ Auditors / and firms engaged in inspection and testing of radio communication equipment

This circular is issued to advise that the IMO Maritime Safety Committee’s 106th session approved the revised :

  • GMDSS operating guidance for ships in distress situations.
  • Procedures for responding to DSC distress alerts by ships and
  • Guidance on distress alerts

The following IMO circulars, coming into force on 01 January 2024 contain advice and procedures to be followed , in accordance with chapter IV of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974:

  • MSC.1/Circ. 1656, provides guidance concerning the use of appropriate radiocommunications equipment in distress situations, in diagrammatic forma
  • MSC.1/Circ 1657  contains procedures to be followed by radio personnel onboard ships when responding to VHF,MF and HF distress alerts, and includes flow diagrams of the procedure.
  • MSC.1/Circ 1658 describes the operating procedure for a distress alert in diagrammatic format

The diagrams, included in Annex to the circulars, are to be displayed on the bridge in A4 size. For easy reference these posters are reproduced herein.

Guidance for responding to DSC Distress Alerts by ships

Circular 1657 additionally provides a procedure in text to be followed by radio personnel when responding to VHF, MF and HF distress alerts. The procedure covers distress relays, all coast station call (group calling), and authorisation.

Act now

Ship Owners, Managers, Operators, and Masters should ensure the diagrams are posted on the ship’s bridge as required and that the procedure for responding to DSC alerts by ships is understood and included in the onboard management system as appropriate.

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