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The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System is a worldwide system to support maritime search and rescue operations. The primary goal of GMDSS is to alert search and rescue (SAR) authorities ashore and ships in the vicinity of the ship in distress so they can assist in a co-ordinated search and rescue operation with minimum delay.
The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System uses both satellite and terrestrial radio systems because each system has its own individual limitations with respect to geographical coverage and services it can provide. The system also provides some limited ship to ship communications capabilities. In addition to communication equipment, GMDSS requires equipment to improve the chances of survival in distress situations. This includes a position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) and a radar transponder (SART) to localize a ship in distress or survival craft. Last but not least, GMDSS includes a system to provide maritime safety information (MSI), including navigational and meteorological warnings.
The GMDSS includes the following systems:
The requirements for the communication and MSI equiment depends on the area in which the ship operate. There are 4 different areas defined:
An EPIRB and SART are always required.
Every ship subject to the communications act or the safety of life at sea (SOLAS) convention must comply with GMDSS. These vessels include:
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