The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) is an international system which uses improved terrestrial and satellite technology and ship-board radio systems. It ensures rapid alerting of shore-based rescue and communications authorities in the event of an emergency. In addition, the system alerts vessels in the immediate vicinity and provides improved means of locating survivors.

GMDSS was developed through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and represents a significant change in the way maritime safety communications are conducted. While it is mandatory for all ships subject to the International Convention for the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) (cargo ships 300 gross tons or greater and all passenger vessels, on international voyages), GMDSS will impact on all radio-equipped vessels, regardless of size. The global implementation of GMDSS services became effective on February 1, 1999.

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