Russian ships in the Pacific have completely lost access to the Inmarsat satellite system. This British system is part of the Global Maritime Distress System (GMDSS) and is mandatory for all ships in international waters. The satellite system provides the transmission of ship coordinates and short messages. If the transfer of coordinates stops, the shipowner must prove that it is not his fault, otherwise the ship will have to return to the port. Now the problem is being solved.
This time, the outage occurred due to an emergency situation on the Inmarsat satellite. Last year there were two such outages, but both times were not the fault of the British, but due to failures at the ground stations of the Russian operator FSUE Morsviazsputnik. FSUE has two ground stations – in the Moscow region and in Nakhodka. In September, the center near Moscow left hundreds of vessels of the Pacific fishing fleet without Inmarsat positioning for a week. The Ministry of Agriculture took advantage of this by preparing a decree to ban the Inmarsat system on Russian ships from March 1, 2024.
They plan to replace Inmarsat with the Russian “Messenger”. This is the oldest civilian satellite constellation, which has only recently begun to be modernized. The Gonts satellites were abandoned even by Roshydromet due to technical problems and a large time gap in data transmission. But Roskosmos, which owns a 64% stake in JSC Satellite System Gonets-M1, promises to modernize the system, turning it into Gonets-M1. It seems that even a draft design is already ready. True, flight tests are planned to begin no earlier than 2028, so it is not clear what the Ministry of Agriculture is going to change Inmarsat for in 2024. Apparently old. Last year, three satellites were launched with the old “Gonets”, but they do not cover the entire water area of the trawlers.
The fishermen are still reluctant to put Gonets receivers into the cabins and constantly complain about the quality of the devices, frequent breakdowns and the lack of a stable signal. Due to problems with repairs, some take two Gonets devices into the sea at once in case one breaks down (fortunately, they are still cheaper than foreign ones). In addition, from March 1, 2023, the law on the electronic fishing journal came into force. These are reports on the catch, acceptance of the catch, its transshipment, transportation and storage of fish, which are transmitted once a day either via Inmarsat or via Iridium East). If the data is not received by the monitoring center, ship owners need to justify their absence each time so as not to run into fines.
The Ministry of Agriculture justifies the urgent transfer of the fleet to an inferior system by the country’s withdrawal from the agreement with Inmarsat and its possible shutdown on Russian ships “at any moment.” In fact, no one in their right mind will turn off working ship equipment from satellites – otherwise the Russian civilian fleet will become invisible in international waters. With the forced ban on the use of Inmarsat in Russia, the situation will only worsen: domestic ships need to install about 1,000 Gonts sets in order to completely transfer the fleet to the Russian system. But even then it will not work better.
The real motivation of the Ministry of Agriculture becomes clear when you look at the shareholders of Gonets. There, among others, the name of the Rotenbergs wormed its way. And these brothers are very fond of this type of business, where there is a monopoly. Morsvyazsputnik is a monopoly in its field. And if the law forces everyone to use only the “Messenger”, the fishermen have nowhere to go. And do not care about the convenience – here the big uncles make money.