The sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, caused drastic changes within the shipping industry with the introduction of new rules and regulations to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. As the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy passes, I thought it might be useful to discuss the process that would happen today if such a disaster were to occur.
First of all, the NAVTEX system would have alerted ship personnel of any iceberg activity in the area and, in all likelihood, would have prevented the disaster entirely. If we assume the ship did not act on the information and hit the iceberg, the following actions would happen today. The GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) would have immediately gone into action. The distress signal would be activated and then the on-board system would independently and continuously send distress alerts via VHF, MF, HF and satellite indicating the ship type, type of distress, position of the ship as well as the channel for voice communication (channel 16 now reserved for this). The AIS system would be used by ship personnel to determine if any ships are in the immediate area to assist. Those near-by vessels would have identification associated with them so that directed radio communications could begin. In addition, the AIS system could be used to send and receive safety text messages so that the rescue ship would have full details of the situation.
The EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) device would be activated by ship personnel, providing additional positioning sources. These devices float free of the vessel so they would remain with survivors, continuing to provide updated positions as the lifeboats made their way to safety. Each lifeboat would also be equipped with a SART (Search and Rescue Transponder) that would either be passive for radar detection or active for AIS detection. It may also be worth noting, that in future, every life jacket will be equipped with an AIS device indicating position.