Iridium says it expects the International Maritime Organization to grant the company’s application for GMDSS certification later this year. Credit: IMO

WASHINGTON — Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Communications on March 12 rejected rival Inmarsat’s allegations that international regulators had rejected Iridium’s application to be certified to provide maritime-distress communications services.

Iridium said it is on track to receive approval as a provider of Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) services by the end of the year, with a key May meeting of the International Maritime Organization, IMO, likely to give its approval in May.

Iridium was responding to a statement by Inmarsat Chief Executive Rupert Pearce, during a March 9 conference call with investors, that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) had given an negative signal to Iridium.

“We will not abandon our safety heritage,” Pearce said. “Indeed, we were delighted to recently receive approval from the IMO to launch an FB [Fleet Broadband]  variant of our GMDSS service, keeping us at the forefront with maritime safety innovation in this century.

“By contrast, it was instructive, at the same IMO session Iridium failed to get the so necessary approval to be authorize with GMDSS,” Pearce added.

Iridium said this is not true, and that while a small minority of IMO governments, including Britain and Germany, appear to be against the Iridium proposal, the vast majority of delegations are for it.

“In the Fall of 2017, MSO completed its formal assessment of Iridium’s functional and operational capabilities for the provision of GMDSS service, and provided a comprehensive report of their findings to the IMO,” Iridium said in a statement in response to Pearce’s remarks. “In its report, IMSO concluded that Iridium had satisfied the IMO’s functional and operational criteria to provide mobile satellite GMDSS services.

The most recent IMO meeting an evaluation committee agreed that Iridium has demonstrated compliance with the functional requirements to provide GMDSS services and communicated this information to the IMO Maritime Safety Committee.

“The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) is the IMO body which is granted the

authority to recognize which companies and services can be used in the GMDSS. The MSC will consider Iridium’s application along with IMSO’s assessment at its upcoming meeting (MSC 99) to take place from 16-25 May 2018,” Iridium said.

“We expect the MSC to conclude that Iridium has met the IMO’s criteria to be a GMDSS service provider, and to adopt a resolution recognizing Iridium as a GMDSS service provider. If Iridium is able to achieve IMO recognition in 2018, we would expect to initiate providing GMDSS services in January 2020, following the amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) treaty enabling addition of new GMDSS service providers entering into force.

“This timeline and process for IMO recognition, is consistent with what we have previously communicated and so far, all things are progressing in a positive way.”

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Peter B. de Selding
Peter B. de Selding
Peter de Selding is a Co-Founder and editor for He started SpaceIntelReport in 2017 after 26 years as the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews where he covered the commercial satellite, launch and the international space businesses. He is widely considered the preeminent reporter in the space industry and is a must read for space executives. Follow Peter @pbdes