Radio communications systems for ship navigation, distress calls and rescue at sea continue to play an important role in today's world. The hardware has evolved from the Morse Radio Telegraph, used by the Titanic in 1912 to send its distress call, into today's Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) which utilizes artificial satellites and digital technology.
Current emergency and safety communications systems are designed to provide sea condition and other information in support of swift search and rescue operations in the case of emergency. AIS (Automatic Identification System) will be implemented on a step-by-step basis from July, 2002, after the revision of the Chapter 5, SOLAS Treaty. SOLAS, the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea, has regulated vessel safety since the 1990s. Chapter 5 of the SOLAS Treaty was discussed at IMO (International Maritime Organization) and adopted at MSC73 (Maritime Safety Committee73) in December, 2000.
Revision of Chapter 5 of the SOLAS Treaty is summarized as follows:
With the AIS installed, vessels are able to monitor the movement of a multiple number of vessels simultaneously regardless of visibility, thereby dramatically reducing the danger of ship collision.
Furthermore, ground facilities can obtain the ship-specific information necessary for automatic, real-time maritime traffic control. AIS will play an important role in ensuring navigational and operational efficiency in congested waterways.