The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) is not just a system for ocean going Merchant Vessels.   As the name implies, the GMDSS is a global system, which is designed to cater for all types of craft, from a 300,000 ton oil tanker to a small run-about.

The rationale for the GMDSS is to provide one internationally standardised marine radio system.  At the moment, we effectively have two marine radio systems running in parallel - the GMDSS, used by merchant ships, and the old manual radiotelephone system, used by recreational craft.

We all need to talk to each other when the chips are down.....

The most suitable GMDSS communications system for recreational users is VHF DSC.  Equipment is relatively inexpensive, simple to use and easy to install.  It allows automated communications with all types of vessel, large and small.

What are the advantages of VHF DSC ?

Activation of a single button automatically sends a distress call to all DSC equipped ships, boats and shore stations in range.  The call automatically includes:

The call will be automatically repeated until stopped by an acknowledgment message. 

DSC is particularly useful if you have to abandon ship quickly – just push the red DISTRESS button and go – your plight will be automatically signaled to all until your boat sinks…

Typical VHF DSC radio - with big red emergency/DISTRESS button

The DSC system also provides a feature known as position polling.  This allows another station (shore or ship) to automatically request your DSC radio to send its GPS position (if GPS is connected).  

This is particularly useful for volunteer marine rescue stations - no more chasing up vessels for position reports - simply poll them via DSC.   

For volunteer marine rescue stations - think of how much more efficient it would be if you could automatically track your SAR craft by DSC polling during a Search and Rescue incident......let the boat crew get on with the job, rather than having to report their position over the radio....

And, of course, for all users -  DSC automates the radio calling process. No more listening to busy Channel 16, just in case someone is calling you…  

If someone wants to talk to you, they simply dial your DSC number, just like a mobile telephone.  Your DSC radio will ring when someone calls you.

How do I use VHF DSC?