GMDSS calls remain high despite slight decrease – report

Inmarsat has released analysis of Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) distress calls received during 2023, revealing a decrease of 7.6% over the previous year, but only a minor reduction compared to the six-year average.

The 2024 edition of The Future of Maritime Safety Report showed that GMDSS services were triggered on 788 occasions last year, compared with the six-year average of 799 annual calls, highlighting the persistent ongoing challenges in maritime safety.

The report suggests that the maritime industry is beginning to overcome some operational challenges linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as limited inspections and disrupted maintenance schedules. However, the emergence of potential new safety risks associated with escalating geopolitical tensions and future fuels – particularly in the context of the industry’s transition to more sustainable practices – demands further attention.

As well as providing a snapshot of current safety metrics, Inmarsat hopes that the report can serve as a call to action for the maritime industry to embrace data sharing and collaborative problem-solving to navigate through these changes.

The publication suggests that any concerns regarding data pooling related to confidentiality or reputational damage could be addressed by anonymising casualty and incident data. It recommends that the shipping industry establishes a list of standard data points to monitor and report, including casualties and incidents, injuries or deaths at sea, and near misses. It also endorses trend analysis to support the development of safety measures, with a particular emphasis on developing risk treatments for well-known and recurring issues.

“By harnessing the power of anonymised safety data, we can identify trends, develop specific mitigation measures, and enhance the overall safety of our ships and crews. Modern technology offers unprecedented opportunities to improve safety through better data analysis and sharing,” said Peter Broadhurst, Senior Vice President, Safety and Regulatory, Inmarsat Maritime.

“Although progress has been made, shipping continues to experience significant casualty rates. We collect vast amounts of safety data, yet the current siloed-working model hinders our ability to fully leverage the actionable insights available to us.”

“By pooling data, we can create a more holistic and objective view of maritime safety to inform performance improvements and ultimately reduce the occurrence of preventable safety incidents to save lives at sea.”

The full report can be accessed here.

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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