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Abbreviation for the International Mobile Satellite Organization, which was formed by a convention of the International Maritime Organization in 1975, and began operations in 1982. Inmarsat's obligations to provide maritime distress and safety services via satellite were part of the 1988 amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) which introduced the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System. In 1999 Inmarsat was privatized and the new structure comprises Inmarsat Ltd., a public limited company, and the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO), an intergovernmental body that ensures its commercial arm continues to meet its public service obligations.

Inmarsat's four satellites provide communications for the four ocean areas except the extreme polar regions. It has various mobile systems (Inmarsat-A, -B, etc.) which provide different facilities for mariners and other users. They include direct-dial telephone, fax, e-mail, and data communications, and provide for the transmission and reception of high-quality photographs and video film. Some can be connected to satellite navigation devices such as GPS, and meet the long-range communications requirements of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System. Inmarsat-E is currently (2004) an alternative system for alerting lifesaving services through L-band EPIRBs.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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