IMO's efforts to assist in the wider United Nations campaign to bring relief and reconstruction to the regions devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami received a major boost today (10 January 2005) when the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) announced that, in co-operation with Inmarsat, it will make available up to 1000 digital land-mobile satellite communication terminals, free of charge, to the Secretary-General of IMO, for long term disaster response and relief purposes in the south Asia region.
The terminals are to be supported with a programme of basic user training to enable them to be brought into use as quickly and effectively as possible, and IMSO also hopes to negotiate a package of subsidised airtime to ease the early use of the terminals.
Speaking at the opening of the IMO Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping, IMSO Director Dr. Jerzy Vonau spoke of his organization's horror and deep sadness at the catastrophic loss of life which has occurred among the peoples of the coastal states of the Indian Ocean. He said, "Words cannot express the sorrow we all feel for those who have been bereaved and our extreme sympathy with those who are left to pick up their lives again after such an extraordinarily traumatic event. May God be with them all."
In referring to the decision of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee at its most recent session (December 2004) that IMSO should be asked to oversee the services of all providers of satellite communications for the global maritime distress and safety system (GMDSS), Dr. Vonau said that IMSO was firmly at the centre of global distress communication management within the IMO ambit and it was therefore very appropriate that he should now be in a position to make the offer of the satellite communication terminals.
IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos welcomed the offer, adding that he felt sure that the ability to communicate would be crucial to relief efforts on the ground in areas where the existing infrastructure had been destroyed. He used the opportunity of his opening speech to urge delegates, observers and the maritime community at large to contribute to the ad hoc IMO Fund ('Tsunami Maritime Relief