Maritime Navigation Safety and Security15th meeting of the Arab Spectrum Management Group

The National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) organized a workshop under the title of “Cooperation & Coordination between Egyptian authorities working in the field of maritime navigation safety and security”. The workshop tackled means of enhancing security and relief systems in regional and neighboring international waters. The workshop was attended by the head of the Maritime Safety authority, head of the maritime transportation sector at the ministry of transportation, the Dean of the faculty of Engineering and Technology in the Arab Academy for Sciences & Technology and Maritime Transport (Cairo branch), International Communications head of sector at Telecom Egypt, representative of the armed forces operations authority, a number of officials at the Suez Canal Authority, representatives of Egyptian Ports, Coast stations in addition to representatives of Maritime companies, companies importing communications and relief equipment.

At the beginning of the opening session, Dr. Amr Badawi, the executive president of the NTRA,  highlighted the importance of this meeting, which is held with the aim of enhancing degrees of safety and security and promote services provided in case of maritime catastrophes to consolidate the safety of citizens and maintain good reputation of our country.  Dr. Amr Badawi highlighted the regulating role of the NTRA represented mainly in giving the license for wireless equipment and relief equipment, the NTRA offers as well licenses certificates of relief wireless equipment operators.  

Dr. Tarek Attia, the Director of the Technical Affairs Department of the NTRA, reviewed the targets of this meeting and the role of the NTRA in public mobilization operations, as defined in Article 65 of Telecommunication Regulation Law No. 10 for the year 2003. Dr. Attia addressed as well the division of the navigation zones in the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). He elaborated the components of this system and identified the authorities in charge of the coordination. He highlighted the significance of the integration of maritime security measures. He elucidated elements of disasters and the most significant challenges facing Egypt in this regard. He mentioned the most ideal planning for handling the disasters of the ships.

The Director of Maritime Transport Sector in the Ministry of Transport mentioned the actual security-related potentials of Egypt, the locations and number of coastal stations in Egypt, in addition to the Search and Rescue Centers and Vessel Traffic System (VTS). Moreover, he underscored the role of Maritime Transport sector in the maritime security system. Then he discussed the demands related to Maritime telecom Sector in this respect, most importantly, the amendment  to the presidential decree No. 300 for the year 1983 that specified the duties and mission of Search and Rescue Centers, and means of coordinating efforts with the Egyptian Authority for Maritime Safety.

Dean of the faculty of engineering and technology at the Arab Academy for Sciences and Technology, maritime transport (Cairo branch) explained the components of GMDSS and parts of the GMDSS main plan, hinting at some international agreements and conventions which Egypt has recently signed. 
Head of the international communications Sector at Telecom Egypt addressed the issue of coastal stations in Egypt and their coverage areas, highlighting ultimatum signals, telephone numbers, faxes and telexes numbers.

Head of the Egyptian Authority for Maritime Safety overviewed its duties and means of its cooperation with Maritime Transport Sector and Suez Canal Port authority. He discussed the time periods planned to notify the competent Egyptian Authorities of the distress alert signals that could be sent by any ship in danger.

Within the framework of exchanging opinions with the companies importing alert systems, one of the companies made a presentation on a radar-based system for monitoring the vessels traffic in the port and mentioned the Automatic Identification System (AIS).

The representative of the Operational Staff of the Armed Forces answered all enquiries related to Search and Rescue Centers in Egypt. He made it clear that these Centers existing in the Armed Forces serve the civil authorities and Armed Forces. Other Centers would be set up in Suez for this purpose.

He explained that in case of receiving any notification, the Search and Rescue Centers would check its authenticity then entrust the competent authority to carry out the search and rescue operation. The main headquarters of the Search and Rescue Centers has been linked to an integrated network coordinating with all competent authorities.

Director of Monitoring and Operational sector at the NTRA, pointed out that the integral coordination of all the concerned authorities related to maritime safety would be highly significant so as to guarantee the availability of complete data. Periodical meetings would be held for this purpose. 

The Vice President of NTRA conducted a round table discussion on means of coordination and cooperation that should take place among the official authorities and the coastal stations that receive disaster alerts and the concerned maritime companies. The discussion addressed some recommendations namely the necessity of establishing a national authority for disasters, issuance of an electronic maritime map in the main center of monitoring to identify the ships routing, promotion of field training, enhancing quality and level of performance, issuance of licenses to captains and naval officers, and the problems caused by oil companies endangering maritime safety. Moreover, he alluded to the Epirp equipment used in the automated rescue in case of sunken ships that operate with satellites for COSPAS-SARSAT, and INMARSAT and how this signal would reach the Search and Rescue Center in Egypt through the RCC.
At the end of this session, the attendants agreed on a plan aiming at optimizing the coordination. Recommendations included:

- Tests should be carried out by sending maritime rescue alerts from a number of ships and motorboats from various coasts in the country (the Mediterranean and the Red Sea) for the following reasons:
• Assessing and calculating the time of arrival of maritime alert signals to all the concerned authorities within the shortest possible period of time.
• Revealing the scope of coverage of various coastal stations in Egypt and evaluating their efficiency.
• Assessing and evaluating the degree of efficiency of the alert equipment.
• Revealing the shortcomings that might evolve during the implementation of the experiment and the authorities’ attempt to attain the best level of performance in case maritime disasters occur.

- The concerned authorities should concert efforts in this regard
- The results of the afore-mentioned experiment (concerning the alert signals) should be assessed and analyzed in such a way that guarantees the best feedback.
- Other tests should be carried out in which alert signals would be sent with prior ultimatum.
- A website should be launched in which all the information related to maritime safety would be published.

A live experiment was actually carried out as alert signals were sent from ships and motorboats equipment from five different locations, detailing: the name of the ship, alert signal, the MMSI, the ship location. The experiment monitored the timing of receiving the alert signals by the authorities participating in the test until they reach the Search and Rescue Center affiliated to the Armed Forces.

On analyzing the test results, the positive and negative sides were made clear. Chief among the positive points were: assessing the main and secondary coastal stations and their ability to receive the alert signals and re-send them to the concerned authorities, testing the coverage and efficacy of the coastal stations with regards to receiving all alert signals from different locations at very high frequencies (VHF) and the period of the arrival of maritime alert signals to all the competent authorities as soon as possible, the efficacy of maritime rescue equipment aboard ships in sending alert signals, the qualifications of the staff working in the locations receiving alert signals.
The negative aspects include: the lack of experience of the staff in charge, the impediments in sending the faxes, deficiency of coordination and cooperation between concerned parties.

The NTRA is preparing for another meeting for all concerned authorities with the aim of assessing the test results, analyzing the shortcomings of any of its phases. Then an action plan would be set for the coming period with the aim of enhancing the mechanism of sending and receiving the alert signals.

The National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) hosts the 15th meeting of the Arab Spectrum Management Group (ASMG) in the period from 2 to 5 October 2011. This meeting is highly significant as it is the last meeting to be held prior to the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-12) that will be held in January 2012 in Geneva – Switzerland. The WRC-12 will be preceded by the Radiocommunication Assembly meeting.

During the 15th meeting of the ASMG, there will be a coordination of efforts among the Arab administrations to determine their stance on the agenda of the ensuing Conference (WRC-12) which will discuss matters related to the regulatory framework of frequency spectrum usage and technical issues related to mobile, satellite, aviation, navigation and GPS services. The proposed working papers that will be submitted to the Conference will be presented and discussed in the meeting.

  It is worth mentioning in this respect that the ASMG is one of the Arab task forces emanating from the Arab Permanent ICT Committee of Arab Telecommunications and Information Council of (ATICM) under the umbrella of the League of Arab States.