FAQ: Marine Abbreviations

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What is IMO?
What is SOLAS?
What is an EPIRB?
What is GMDSS?
What are the 13 Incoterms?

What is IMO?

The International Maritime Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations, which is responsible for measures to improve the safety of international shipping and to prevent marine pollution from ships. It also is involved in legal matters, including liability and compensation issues and the facilitation of international maritime traffic. It was established by means of a Convention adopted under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva on 17 March 1948 and met for the first time in January 1959. It currently has 157 Member States. IMO's governing body is the Assembly, which is made up of all 157 Member States and meets normally once every two years. It adopts the budget for the next biennium together with technical resolutions and recommendations prepared by subsidiary bodies during the previous two years. The Council acts as governing body in between Assembly sessions. It prepares the budget and work program for the Assembly. The Maritime Safety, Marine Environment Protection, Legal, Technical Co-operation and Facilitation Committees and a number of sub-committees carry out the main technical work.

Source: www.imo.org

What is SOLAS?

SOLAS is the abbreviation of Safety Of Life At Sea. It is an International Convention for the Safety Of Life At Sea led by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO, a United Nations Specialized Agency.

The WMO Marine Programme co-ordinates the dissemination of warnings and weather and sea bulletins according to a broadcast schedule, in conformity with procedures laid down under the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) protocols within SOLAS. For broadcast purposes, the world's oceans are divided into a number of areas of responsibility called Metareas.

Source: http://www.wmo.ch/web/aom/marprog/solas.html

What is an EPIRB?

EPIRB stands for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. EPIRBs, devices that cost from $200 to about $1500, are designed to save your life if you get into trouble by alerting rescue authorities and indicating your location. EPIRB types are described below:

  • Class A: 121.5/243 MHZ. Float-free, automatically-activating, detectable by aircraft and satellite. Coverage is limited. An alert from this device to a rescue coordination center may be delayed 4 - 6 or more hours.
  • Class B: 121.5/243 MHZ. Manually activated version of Class A.
  • Class C: VHF ch15/16. Manually activated, operates on maritime channels only. Not detectable by satellite. These devices are being phased out by the FCC and are no longer recommended.
  • Class S: 121.5/243 MHZ. Similar to Class B, except it floats, or is an integral part of a survival craft.
  • Category I: 406/121.5 MHZ. Float-free, automatically activated EPIRB. It is detectable by satellite anywhere in the world. Recognized by GMDSS.
  • Category II: 406/121.5 MHZ. Similar to Category I, except is manually activated. Some models are also water activated.
  • Inmarsat E: 1646 MHZ. Float-free, automatically activated EPIRB. It is detectable by Inmarsat geostationary satellite. Recognized by GMDSS.

Source : The U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center

What is GMDSS?

GMDSS is the abbreviation of "Global Maritime Distress & Safety System".

Since the invention of radio at the end of the 19th Century, ships at sea have relied on Morse code, invented by Samuel Morse and first used in 1844, for distress and safety telecommunications. The need for ship and coast radio stations to have and use radiotelegraph equipment, and to listen to a common radio frequency for Morse encoded distress calls, was recognized after the sinking of the liner Titanic in the North Atlantic in 1912. The U.S. Congress enacted legislation soon after, requiring U.S. ships to use Morse code radiotelegraph equipment for distress calls. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), now a United Nations agency, followed suit for ships of all nations. Morse encoded distress calling has saved thousands of lives since its inception almost a century ago, but its use requires skilled radio operators spending many hours listening to the radio distress frequency. Its range on the medium frequency (MF) distress band (500 kHz) is limited, and the amount of traffic Morse signals can carry is also limited.

Over fifteen years ago the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency specializing in safety of shipping and preventing ships from polluting the seas, began looking at ways of improving maritime distress and safety communications. In 1979, a group of experts drafted the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, which called for development of a global search and rescue plan. This group also passed a resolution calling for development by IMO of a Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) to provide the communication support needed to implement the search and rescue plan. This new system, which the world's maritime nations, including the United States, are implementing, is based upon a combination of satellite and terrestrial radio services, and has changed international distress communications from being primarily ship-to-ship based to ship-to-shore (Rescue Coordination Center) based. It spelled the end of Morse code communications for all but a few users, such as Amateur Radio. The GMDSS provides for automatic distress alerting and locating in cases where a radio operator doesn't have time to send an SOS or MAYDAY call, and, for the first time, requires ships to receive broadcasts of maritime safety information which could prevent a distress from happening in the first place. In 1988, IMO amended the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, requiring ships subject to it fit GMDSS equipment. Such ships were required to carry NAVTEX and satellite EPIRBs by 1 August 1993, and had to fit all other GMDSS equipment by 1 February 1999. US ships were allowed to fit GMDSS in lieu of Morse telegraphy equipment by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The GMDSS consists of several systems, some of which are new, but many of which have been in operation for many years. The system will be able to reliably perform the following functions: alerting (including position determination of the unit in distress), search and rescue coordination, locating (homing), maritime safety information broadcasts, general communications, and bridge-to-bridge communications. Specific radio carriage requirements depend upon the ship's area of operation, rather than its tonnage. The system also provides redundant means of distress alerting, and emergency sources of power.

Read more about GMDSS at http://www.navcen.uscg.mil/marcomms/gmdss/.

Source : The U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center

What are the 13 Incoterms?

Incoterms 2000 describe the responsibilities of seller and buyer in international trade. The full and authoritative definition of each trade term is published in Incoterms 2000, Publication 560, obtainable from the Business Bookstore and ICC national committees throughout the world.

EXW: EX WORKS (... named place)
FCA: FREE CARRIER (... named place)
FAS: FREE ALONGSIDE SHIP (... named port of shipment)
FOB: FREE ON BOARD (... named port of shipment)
CFR: COST AND FREIGHT (... named port of destination)
CIF: COST, INSURANCE AND FREIGHT (... named port of destination)
CPT: CARRIAGE PAID TO (... named place of destination)
CIP: CARRIAGE AND INSURANCE PAID TO (... named place of destination)
DAF: DELIVERED AT FRONTIER (... named place)
DES: DELIVERED EX SHIP (... named port of destination)
DEQ: DELIVERED EX QUAY (... named port of destination)
DDU: DELIVERED DUTY UNPAID (... named place of destination)
DDP: DELIVERED DUTY PAID (... named place of destination)

Incoterms is a trademark of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Source: International Chamber of Commerce