SSAS Beacons

Ship Security Alert System (SSAS)

  • 05 May 2005 A new system that contributes to the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) efforts to strengthen maritime security and suppress acts of terrorism against shipping has been implemented by Cospas-Sarsat. Modifications have been made to the Cospas-Sarsat System to provide discrete security alerts and the Cospas-Sarsat 406 MHz Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) now complies with IMO requirements.

    System Status

    In 2004, two system tests were performed to demonstrate that the Cospas-Sarsat system was capable of supporting SSAS processing. Type-approval of several new 406 MHz beacons for SSAS use has been completed. A comprehensive list of Cospas-Sarsat approved SSAS beacons, with associated manufacturer information, is available on the Cospas-Sarsat website.

    Implementation History

    At its 31 st Session in October 2003 the Cospas-Sarsat Council approved the implementation of a 406 MHz Ship Security Alerting System (SSAS) in the Cospas-Sarsat System. The Cospas-Sarsat SSAS implementation complies with IMO requirements as outlined in SOLAS Chapter XI-2 “Special Measures to Enhance Maritime Security” and Resolutions MSC.136(76) and MSC.147(77) on performance standards for SSAS. The required minimal modifications to the System were initially implemented and tested in May and September 2004. On the basis of those tests and in view of the redundancy in the Cospas-Sarsat Ground Segment, the System is now considered capable of supporting SSAS processing .

    Cospas-Sarsat, as an intergovernmental organization, will provide this service on a long-term basis free-of-charge to the end user. Additionally, Cospas-Sarsat provides a robust alerting capability with satellites in both low-earth and geostationary orbits, an automated data distribution network over reliable communication links, a process to register beacon owner information with national authorities and a process to type approve devices to ensure reliable operations.

    Implementation Details

    There are two major elements to the 406 MHz SSAS: the transmitter required for initiating SSAS alerts and a methodology for distribution of SSAS alert messages in the Cospas-Sarsat Ground Segment.

    A specific 406 MHz beacon coding protocol defined in document C/S T.001, “Specification for Cospas-Sarsat 406 MHz Distress Beacons”, is used to discriminate a ship security alert from a distress alert. The agreed specification for the SSAS beacon provides for accurate Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) encoded location information in the beacon message and requires the inclusion of the vessel MMSI for the beacon identification. The specification prohibits use of a homing device in order to make beacon transmissions covert.

    The Cospas-Sarsat specification only deals with the electrical and transmission requirements that ensure the compatibility of the SSAS beacon with the satellite processing system. National Administrations and standards organizations (e.g. RTCM in the United States) have defined additional requirements for 406 MHz SSAS beacon activation and installation.

    Alert Distribution Procedures

    The distribution of SSAS alerts within the Cospas-Sarsat Ground Segment uses a modified version of the standard data distribution procedure. As in normal Cospas-Sarsat operations, all Local User Terminals (LUTs) receive the 406 MHz SSAS beacon messages, retrieve the GNSS encoded location, and generate a Doppler location (LEOLUTs only). The ship security alert data is then passed to a Mission Control Centre (MCC) where it is automatically routed to the MCC that serves the Flag State identified in the beacon message, regardless of the physical location of the beacon. That MCC then delivers the ship security alert to a single point of contact identified by the Flag State as its "competent authority", per SOLAS Chapter XI-2 Regulation 6.2.1. In the Cospas-Sarsat implementation of SSAS, a vessel cannot send a ship security alert directly to its Company. A sample alert message can be found below.

    System Level Tests

    The SSAS functionality of the Cospas-Sarsat System was tested in 2004. In the future, the Cospas-Sarsat SSAS will be routinely tested as part of the annual System-wide test of the Cospas-Sarsat Ground Segment.

    Competent Authorities

    IMO has made available (Circular letter No. 2514, 8 December 2003) a web-based reporting system that allows Administrations to supply the information required by SOLAS regulation XI-2/13, including points of contact for competent authorities for distribution of ship security alerts. IMO invited SOLAS Contracting Governments to nominate a single national point of contact for maritime-security matters. Details on use of the IMO Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) database are available on the IMO website www.imo.org.

    In addition to providing the required information to IMO, Administrations that decide to use the Cospas-Sarsat System for ship security alerting should contact their supporting Cospas-Sarsat MCC to coordinate a method for distribution of SSAS alerts. The MCC serving a given Flag State can be identified in document C/S A.001, “Cospas-Sarsat Data Distribution Plan”, Annex I/D; contact information for the MCC can be found in Annex II/A.

    Sample SIT 185 Ship Security Alert

    SIT 185

    406 MHz SHIP SECURITY ALERT

    (to be transmitted only to competent security authority)

    (LEOSAR - with encoded position)

    1. SHIP SECURITY COSPAS-SARSAT POSITION RESOLVED ALERT

    2. MSG NO. 17002 UKMCC REF 12345

    3. DETECTED AT 10 JUL 04 2130 UTC BY SARSAT 09

    4. DETECTION FREQUENCY 406.0281 MHZ

    5. COUNTRY OF BEACON REGISTRATION 232/G.BRITAIN

    6. USER CLASS – SHIP SECURITY WITH ENCODED POSITION – MMSI LAST SIX DIGITS 387718

    7. EMERGENCY CODE - NIL

    8. POSITIONS

    RESOLVED - 55 23.2N 022 29.9W

    DOPPLER A - 55 19.1N 022 25.4W

    DOPPLER B -

    ENCODED - 55 23.2N 022 27.0W UPDATE TIME UNKNOWN

    9. ENCODED POSITION PROVIDED BY EXTERNAL DEVICE

    10. NEXT PASS TIMES

    RESOLVED - 10 JUL 04 2201 UTC

    DOPPLER A - NIL

    DOPPLER B - NIL

    ENCODED - NIL

    11. HEX ID 1D18BD50C0FFBFF

    12. ACTIVATION TYPE - MANUAL

    13. BEACON NUMBER ON AIRCRAFT OR VESSEL - NIL

    14. OTHER ENCODED INFORMATION

    A. ENCODED POSITION ACCURACY - 4 SECONDS

    15. OPERATIONAL INFORMATION

    REGISTRATIONAL INFORMATION AT UKMCC

    TELEX: 75194 UKMCCK G

    AFTN: EGQPZSZX

    TELEPHONE: (44-1343) 836015

    16. REMARKS - This is a ship security alert. Process this alert according to relevant security requirements.

    END OF MESSAGE