The efforts of India brought India to the 4th position in the list of countries to have its very own independent regional navigation satellite system on the 11th of November. This navigation system is validated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as a part of the World Wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS).

With this navigation system, India can now replace GPS in the Indian Ocean waters up to 1500 km from the Indian boundary. It took two years for getting recognition for the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System based on satellites of the Indian Space Research Organisation. The Director-General of Shipping, Amitabh Kumar said that now this “modern and more accurate” system can be used as an alternative navigation module by the merchant’s vessels in Indian waters.

To get a better understanding let us talk in-depth about IRNSS.

The IRNSS is an independent regional navigation satellite system developed by India, designed to provide accurate information about the position of the ships to assist in their navigation in the Indian Ocean waters. IRNSS is capable of replacing the US-owned Global Positioning System (GPS) in the Indian Ocean stretched up to approximately 1500 km from the Indian boundary.

The recognition of IRNSS by IMO becomes important because firstly, the IMO is the United Nations’ specialized agency which is responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships, and when in the 102nd session of Maritime Safety Committee, also known as MSC, of IMO, which was held online in the month of November, acknowledged the IRNSS as a component of the World-wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS), IRNSS became a navigation system made by India which is placed parallel to GPS, (which is mostly used by marine shipping vessels all across the world) and also with the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). 

Before India, the US, Russia, and China were the three countries to have their own navigation systems. Though IRNSS is a regional navigation system and not a global one, it is still a significant achievement for India. The Directorate General of Shipping under the Union Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, also thinks the same way and said that “this is also a significant achievement towards the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative”.  

As per the officials, as of now, the use of IRNSS is available for all merchant vessels including small fishing vessels, whereas the system will be open to all including security agencies. Those vessels that have transponders installed in them will be traced by satellite navigation, showing their accurate position in the Indian Ocean region. The officials also have shared that there are at least 2,500 merchant vessels in Indian waters that can be benefited from the use of the IRNSS.

The IMO had always encouraged the countries to develop their own navigation systems as reliance on one isn’t safe. The same thought pushed India into making its very own navigation system. For getting the recognition with the recognised authorities, India put its system through detailed tests on merchant ships for marking its accuracy. Such records were included in the report prepared by ISRO which was then submitted to IMO for consideration. After a detailed analysis, the sub-committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) of the IMO, in its 7th session that held in January 2020, recommended to the MSC of IMO that it accepts the IRNSS as a component of the WWRNS. The recognition was finally tendered in the circular of IMO on November 11th which was the official announcement of the IRNSS to IMO’s member states.