The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has signed a five-year AU$17 million contract with TVNZ (Australia) Pty Ltd to significantly upgrade Australia's maritime communications system. Several tenders were considered for the project, which will be operational on 1 July 2002. A new High Frequency radio transmission facilities would be established at Wiluna in Western Australia and Charleville in Queensland which would greatly benefit commercial ships (vessels covered by the international Safety of Life at Sea convention).
Under GMDSS, some services such as the continuous monitoring of HF radio telephony channels from coast radio stations will be discontinued. Digital Selective Calling (DSC) will provide ready communications within the new safety network. (A DSC message is a brief burst of digitised information transmitted from one vessel to another or to a shore station. It indicates to the receiving station who is calling and the purpose of the call. A variant of this system is commonly used in taxis. Once DSC has been used to establish initial contact between stations, communications are continued by voice via HF radio).
All of Australia's international merchant vessels have already converted to the automated GMDSS system. For yachts and smaller vessels - for example, fishing trawlers - skippers may need to upgrade their radio equipment if they wish to take advantage of the new system. For these vessels, the installation of appropriate High Frequency radio channels - up to 16 MHz, with the radio fitted with DSC - will provide ready communications with the new safety network.