Maritime Communication: How difficult is to fill a radio application form correctly

When talking about IT, broadcasting and radio communications, everyone boasts how new, modern and fast their equipment on board is. However, for many professionals involved in the maritime industry, the telecommunications of a ship is complex. It is a specialised technical sector that will leave most of us speechless when, for instance, the need to fill a simple application form for a Radio Station on board a ship arises. Name all that equipment, the frequencies, and entering the information required. It is not easy at all!

Let’s forget about knowing the most basic abbreviations and common terms used in the Maritime Telecommunication world. We may even find today in some radio application forms that the term “gold franc” is used, and how many of us know the term?

But let’s start from the basics; The ITU (International Telecommunication Union) with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland is an international organization within the United Nations System where governments and the private sector coordinate global telecom networks and services. Also there is Inmarsat, – today a private enterprise – that operates a large number of geostationary satellites that extends mobile phone, fax and data communications to every part of the world, except the poles. These are the two main bodies that the Administrations work with in order to have the world fleet in constant communications. The ITU is also in charge of designating in blocks, the call signs for the ships to each country.

In order to have a vessel registered under a particular flag, the Administration usually requires that the vessel signs a contract with an Accounting Authority (AA) in order to administer the billing and settlement of the communication charges incurred by the ship. There are list of approved AA in each country.

Simultaneously, with the re-registration of a ship, the allocation and in some cases a new set of call signs, all the existing or new radio-telecommunication equipment on board has to be activated or commissioned. For this, there are few companies who are authorised for activations of Inmarsat terminals on board the vessels by the Administrations and by Inmarsat.

It is a long and complex procedure, with some registries, for example, the new call sign has to be carved on the mast of the ship, and in others it is not necessary.

However, it is easy to appreciate that our industry has a complex and strong infrastructure in place capable to cope with all the demands and everlasting changes of the world fleet.

© 2005 Maria Dixon – ISM Shipping Solutions Ltd.