A Day in the Life…


Driven by a passion to save more lives at sea, John Dodd is used to a high-adrenaline, fast-paced daily working life. Whether it is reacting to a desperate call about a missing yacht or travelling around the world to assist with Search and Rescue operations and provide critical training, John’s role leading the Inmarsat Safety team is dedicated to keeping over two million seafarers and sailors safe every day.

Over 23 years’ experience in telecommunications and satellite technology, plus a childhood spent sailing on a yacht with his uncle and later as an open water canoeing instructor, provided him with first¬hand experience of the dangers of the sea. Today, his team at Inmarsat is responsible for overseeing current and future Maritime Safety Services within the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), working closely with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Rescue Coordination Centres (RCC).

Responsibility for the lives of all the sailors out on the world’s oceans every day sounds like a daunting burden to carry for anyone heading to work. However, for John, and his Inmarsat Safety team, it is a job they love. All of them are fully committed to the continual innovation of Inmarsat’s safety services as the only IMO-approved satellite provider operating GMDSS, proud to claim over 99.9% network availability across the globe. Even sailors on leisure yachts exempt from GMDSS regulations benefit from Inmarsat safety services which are free of charge for all seafarers. It is the gratitude of rescued sailors and their families, plus the appreciation of rescue service personnel to game-changing improvements in SAR operational procedures, that continues to motivate John after six years in the job.

John arrives at Inmarsat’s towering London headquarters on City Road with the prospect of dealing with a daily average of nine distress alerts sent out by vessels, all picked up and monitored by the team at the sophisticated Network Operations Centre (NOC). In each instance, John and the NOC team will follow the progress of the SAR operation until it is resolved, sometimes coordinating with the relevant Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) or initiating further investigations to see whether the missing person can be tracked using any on-board equipment. In reality, John’s working day may well have started a lot earlier, with safety service on call 24/7 to support the Inmarsat NOC team. A wake-up call in the middle of the night to deal with an urgent distress situation is not usual. In these situations, the brilliant Inmarsat staff at the NOC, constantly monitoring search and rescue and satellite systems operations, will stop everything. Safety of life always takes priority, which is what makes John’s job very different. Whether in London or training at a Rescue Centre, the Inmarsat Safety team are closely bound, united by the amount of time spent working together and with the IMO, in often very stressful conditions.

Some of the more recent rescue situations John has encountered last long in his memory. One of those involved a young girl who called Inmarsat Safety in tears, explaining her dad was lost at sea having failed to arrive at his destination. With no safety communications equipment on-board and no distress alert sent, he could not be tracked through an official GMDSS service, but John ascertained that he had tried to use an IsatPhone only hours earlier but had no credit. Inmarsat, who are able to load credit on the phone for distress situations, then found the position and a SAR operation was started immediately. John carried on liaising with the family and RCC, but in the early hours of the following day a life raft was found with the sailor dead inside. Although a tragic outcome, the family still sent a message to the Inmarsat team thanking them for allowing at least some resolution.

For about eight months of the year, John’s time is split between the office and the IMO, but for the remaining time he is travelling to IMO conferences and sub-committee meetings around the world and visiting any of the 45 MRCCs associated with Inmarsat safety services. John works in line with incentives from the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) to train personnel at the Rescue Centres around the world. With recent visits to centres in Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, John is continuing to instruct on Inmarsat’s RescueNET – a ground-breaking system created to improve SAR communications, offered free to MRCCs. Implementing elements of the system such as two-stage distress dialling and enhanced co-ordination between the centres using a and measured reaction during a SAR exercise.

Life at the London HQ has its lighter side, with the company holding a variety of events, such as a recent wine-tasting.The Inmarsat safety simulator is used as a tool to teach school children and instruct Navy cadets about the dangers at sea and safety commitment. Leading the groups gives John a chance to turn up the waves for a fully immersive, heart-pumping experience for his students. It’s just another way for John to keeping reinforcing the message of safety at sea every day.