About

Background

The International Maritime Satellite Organization (IMSO) was established in 1976 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations specialized agency to, at the time, improve maritime communications, thereby assisting in distress and safety of life at sea, the efficiency and management of ships, maritime public correspondence services, and radiodetermination capabilities.

Mission

IMSO’s mandate is to oversee the performance of all components and the availability of the mobile satellite communications systems recognized by IMO for their use in the GMDSS as well as act as the Co-ordinator for the Long-Range Identification and Tracking of Ships (LRIT).

Institutional Texts

The IMSO Convention as amended is the international treaty applicable to the Organization. It was adopted under the auspices of the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) on 30 September 1976 and was last amended on 2 October 2008.

Background

Following an IMO decision in 1973 to establish a new maritime communications system based on satellite technology, the Convention on the International Maritime Satellite Organization (IMSO), then called the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT), was adopted in 1976, together with an Operating Agreement which entered into force in July 1979. INMARSAT began operations in 1982 from a base in London, United Kingdom.

The Convention defined the purposes of the Organization as being to improve maritime communications, thereby assisting in distress and safety of life at sea, the efficiency and management of ships, maritime public correspondence services, and radiodetermination capabilities.

INMARSAT’s obligation to provide maritime distress and safety services via satellite was enshrined within the 1988 amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

Throughout the 1980s, the Organization prospered commercially. In 1994, the name of the Organization was changed to the International Mobile Satellite Organization, abbreviated to Inmarsat. This reflected the extension of its services from the maritime sector to aeronautical communications, notably for public safety.

However, from around 1990, Inmarsat’s 89 Member States began to realize that the long-term financial viability of the Organization could be jeopardized if substantial institutional changes were not undertaken and this led to the restructuring of the entity in 1999, which still exists today.

The new structure comprises two entities:
Inmarsat Ltd, a public limited company which forms the commercial arm of Inmarsat. The company has taken on all the commercial activities of Inmarsat and is regulated by English law. The then Inmarsat IGO assets were completely privatised by the end of 2003.
• International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) – the intergovernmental body that provides oversight of public satellite safety and security communication services provided by mobile satellite communication systems for use in the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).

As well as overseeing satellite communications under the GMDSS, in 2006 IMSO was also appointed by IMO as the Co-ordinator of the Long-Range Identification and Tracking of Ships (LRIT) system, with responsibilities to audit and review the performance of the international LRIT system.

IMSO is headquartered in London and has 110 Member States.

Mission

IMSO is the intergovernmental organization charged with the mandate to oversee the performance of all components and the availability of the mobile satellite communications systems recognized by IMO for their use in the GMDSS. IMO has recognised Inmarsat and Iridium to provide satellite communication systems for use in the GMDSS.

Since 2008, IMSO has been serving as the Co-ordinator for the Long Range Identification and Tracking of Ships (LRIT) system, appointed by IMO, with responsibilities to audit and review the performance of the international LRIT system. IMSO currently conducts annual audits and review of all elements of the LRIT system across 119 countries. IMSO works with commercial LRIT service providers such as Pole Star, CLS, Kemlinks and Sii Tech and national agencies responsible for the LRIT system.

Ships worldwide of 300 gross tonnage and over and all passenger ships carrying more than twelve passengers when travelling on international voyages or in the open sea must be GMDSS- and LRIT- compliant.

IMSO’s work is therefore vital for safety at sea and to support search and rescue capabilities during times of danger. IMSO delivers on this mandate by overseeing each recognized mobile satellite service provider authorised to perform GMDSS and audit the LRIT services worldwide.

IMSO participates regularly and actively in meetings of various specialized agencies of the United Nations and intergovernmental organizations including, inter alia, IMO, ITU, WMO and IHO and others. IMSO represents its Member States’ interests during high level meetings providing expertise and advice as well as written technical submissions on matters relating to IMSO’s mandate, i.e. GMDSS and LRIT. IMSO is also providing technical assistance to its Member States with a view to facilitating compliance with their international obligations derived from IMO’s International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) relevant to GMDSS and LRIT requirements.

Institutional Texts

IMSO Convention, as amended (Unofficial consolidated text for ease of reading)
At its twentieth session, the IMSO Assembly adopted amendments to the Convention, “the 2008 amendments” and decided that these amendments should be applied provisionally from 6 October 2008.
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Original Convention
The Convention establishing the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT) was concluded on 3 September 1976 and entered into force on 16 July 1979.
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IMSO C 1976 – (A/1) – INMARSAT Convention Operating Agreement (INMARSAT OA) [E-F-S-R]

IMSO C 1976 – (A/2) – Convention on the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT) [E-F-S-R]

IMSO C 1976 – (A/3) – Final Act of the International Conference on the Establishment of an International Maritime Satellite System, 1975-1976 [E-F-S-R]

Amendments to the IMSO Convention
IMSO C 1976 – (A/4) – Procès verbal of rectification – 1998 Amendments to IMSO [E-F-S]

IMSO C 1976 – (1) – Amendments to the Convention on the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT), and, Amendments to the Operating Agreement on the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT) (Amendment 1985) [E-F-S-R]

IMSO C 1976 – (2) – Amendments to the Convention on the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT), and, Amendments to the Operating Agreement on the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT) ( Amendment 1989) [E-F-S-R]

IMSO C 1976 – (3) – Amendments to the Convention on the International Maritime Organization (Institutionalization of the Facilitation Committee) (Amendment 1994) [E-F-S-R]

IMSO C 1976 – (4) – Amendments to the Convention on the International Moblie Satellite Organization, and, Amendments to the Operating Agreement on the International Mobile Satellite Organization (Amendment 1998) [E-F-S-R]

IMSO C 1976 – (5) – Amendments to the Convention on the International Mobile Satellite Organization Adopted at the Eighteenth Session of the Assembly (Amendment 2006) [E-F-S-R]

IMSO C 1976 – (6) – Amendments to the Convention on the International Mobile Satellite Organization Adopted at the Twentieth Session of the Assembly (Amendment 2008) [E-F-S-R]

Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities
The Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Mobile Satellite Organization entered into force on 30 July 1983. The Protocol’s aim is to facilitate the achievement of the purpose of the Organization and to ensure the efficient performance of its functions. It is currently applicable to 48 Member States.
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Amending Agreement to the Protocol
In May 1998, when the Assembly of Parties at its twelfth session approved amendments to the Convention, it was necessary to amend the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities to ensure consistency. The Parties to the Protocol agreed to amend the protocol on 25 September 1998. The Amending Agreement to the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Mobile Satellite Organization is currently applicable to 19 Member States.
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Headquarters Agreement
The Headquarters Agreement between IMSO and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was signed on 15 April 1999. The desire of this agreement is to define the status, privileges and immunities in the United Kingdom of the Organization and of persons connected therewith.
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Ship Earth Station Agreement
The International Agreement on the Use of Inmarsat Ship Earth Stations (SES) within the Territorial Sea and Ports was approved at the fourth session of the IMSO Assembly in 1985 and entered into force on 12 September 1993. The purpose of the Agreement was to improve the distress and safety of life at sea communications, and the efficiency and management of ships.
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