How The ITU Maritime Manual Helps Mariners Navigate The Complex World Of Radiocommunication


From ITU News

Did you know that if you check maritime vessels traversing the world’s seas, you will find a copy of the very same manual onboard?

This would be ITU’s “Manual for Use by the Maritime Mobile and Maritime Mobile-Satellite Services” – more commonly known as “the Maritime Manual.”

The two-volume manual’s main purpose is to provide the maritime community with a description of the radiocommunication technologies, frequencies and procedures used in the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), which is the internationally-agreed set of safety procedures, frequencies, types of equipment, and communication protocols developed by ITU and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

With the Maritime Manual on board, seafarers can sail confidently knowing they have all the necessary texts at hand to correctly apply the relevant radiocommunication procedures, many of which are mandatory and must be followed to the letter – especially in the event of a distress situation at sea.

Helping mariners navigate

The Maritime Manual is essentially a compilation of the operational procedures that must be followed by maritime vessels (also known as “ship stations”) as well as coast stations in case of an emergency.

Volume 1 provides a comprehensive overview of maritime radio technologies, describes the organization and operation of the GMDSS and other maritime operational procedures, while Volume 2 consists of the relevant ITU regulatory, technical, and operational texts related to maritime communications.

Using simple language and illustrative images, the Maritime Manual explains the basics of maritime radiocommunications, describes the current radio system used and details the main requirements to the radio equipment onboard ships, thereby helping mariners “navigate” the complex world of modern radiocommunications.

A requirement on all ships

According to Appendix 16 of the Radio Regulations, the Maritime Manual is required to be carried by all ships in either print or electronic format.

This requirement was introduced into the Radio Regulations in 1979. It follows an earlier one dating back to 1927, which stipulated providing the ITU Radio Regulations and the ITU Convention onboard ships. Today, the relevant extracts from the ITU Constitution and Convention are contained in Volume 2 of the Maritime Manual.

In fact, approximately 25 per cent of the Articles in the Radio Regulations govern the use of maritime radio, contributing to safety, security and comfort at sea and by extension contribute to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and SDG 14: Life Below Water.

Updates expected after WRC-23

The Maritime Manual is updated after the release of the new edition of the Radio Regulations, which happens after each World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), reflecting the most recently adopted decisions.

The Manual also reflects the most recent updates related to new maritime radiocommunication and radio navigation systems showing the latest technological developments.

The upcoming WRC-23 will consider possible regulatory actions to support the modernization of the GMDSS and the implementation of e-navigation. These updates will be reflected in the next edition of the Maritime Manual that will be published after WRC-23.

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