Emergency Support to Vessels in Trouble
In a Boating Emergency
CH16 on VHF (Distress & Emergency Channel) • CH88 on 27MHZ
or CALL 000
Darwin man lucky to be rescued after using obsolete beacon
16 November 2017
A Darwin boatie was lucky to be rescued on Tuesday after using an obsolete 121.5 MHz distress beacon no longer detected by satellite.
A man activated his distress beacon after breaking down at sea, however the distress signal went undetected and he was only discovered when a vessel happened to pass by.
Modern 406MHz beacons replaced 121.5 MHz distress beacons in 2009, when they were phased out. The older style beacons are no longer detected by satellite and can only be detected by nearby aircraft if they happen to be tuned into the frequency.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority Search and Rescue Operations Manager Al Lloyd said people should never rely on an obsolete beacon in an emergency.
“If people are in grave or imminent danger 121.5 beacons are unlikely to result in a search and rescue operation,” Mr Lloyd said. “In this case AMSA and other authorities had no idea that this man was in distress and it’s extremely fortunate a passing boat that lead to a rescue. There could have been a very different outcome.”
The beacons have not been sold in Australia for more than six years. As well as being obsolete they are also likely to have expired batteries which may prevent them from activating at all.
AMSA urges anyone who still owns an old 121.5 MHz beacon to dispose of it appropriately and upgrade to a GPS enabled 406 MHz beacon. The obsolete 121.5 MHz beacons cannot be registered with AMSA.
AMSA Search and Rescue relies on the registration details to gain vital information in the event of an emergency. “If your beacon is registered, you can provide your vehicle or vessel details, your destination, how many people you have with you and nominate emergency contacts,” Mr Lloyd said. “This gives search and rescue officers vital information to assist in any search and rescue operation.
“It can also lead to a faster response and rescue, and prevent unnecessary searches in the event of an accidental activation.”
This is the second incident involving an obsolete 121.5Mhz beacon this week, with another man rescued from a broken down boat in South Australia on Monday.
The man was fortunate a highflying aircraft detected the signal and AMSA was able to send a rescue helicopter to the location near Backstairs Passage off the South Australian coast. The beacon was not detected by satellite.
For more information or to register your beacon for free visit www.amsa.gov.au/beacons
Marine rescue Radio Upgrade Suggestions
1 November 2017
Marine Rescue NSW recommends all boaters carry or install a VHF radio equipped with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) and the Automatic Identification System on board.
VHF radios are relatively inexpensive and offer a clear and powerful signal.
Boaters should always listen on VHF Channel 16 and make their initial calls on Channel 16.
Channel 16 is the international channel for distress, safety and calling because it is constantly monitored, by shore stations and other vessels.
VHF offers the added benefit of Digital Selective Calling, which allows boaters in distress to send a burst of essential data to help rescuers locate them.
A properly installed VHF radio with DSC, once active, will send the vessel’s unique radio identification number known as a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI). If the VHF radio is connected to GPS the vessel’s latitude and longitude or last known position will be transmitted.
Distress calls can either be general or one of 10 pre-defined designations such as flooding, sinking or man overboard.
A strong feature of the DSC system is that it will continue sending a distress alert every three to four minutes until it is acknowledged by a Coast Station.
MRNSW units have DSC capable radios and DSC forms a major component of the organisation’s expanding VHF network.
Another advantage of VHF is that it supports the Automatic Identification System.
AIS equipped vessels can transmit their position, course and speed via dedicated VHF channels.
AIS data is shown on electronic charts in MRNSW radio bases.
As summer approaches, MRNSW units are conducting a targeted campaign to increase boaters’ general awareness of the safety benefits of VHF marine
Marine Rescue Improves Coastal Radio Network North of Port Stephens
1 November 2017
Work is about to start on a $754,000 project to eliminate marine radio blackspots on the Northern NSW coastline to ensure distress calls from boaters are received swiftly and efficiently.
The first stage involves the installation of new VHF radios, aerials and microwave links on Clarence Peak, south-west of Yamba.
Installation and testing is due to start in October, with the equipment to be transported to the site by four-wheel drive.
A trip to the summit takes about an hour.
This stage of the project will address a blackspot between Iluka-Yamba and Wooli.
Similar marine radio installations are planned for Whoota Lookout, south of Forster; Middle Brother, south of Port Macquarie and Yarrahappini, north-west of South West Rocks.
MRNSW Deputy Commissioner Dean Storey said the project would ultimately save lives on the water.
This major investment in marine radio infrastructure on the North and Mid North coasts will eliminate certain blackspots and enable May Day and Pan Pan calls to be received clearly, he said. In the event of an emergency MRNSW and our water safety partners can mount a rapid search and rescue operation.”
He said the project would strengthen the communications network for disseminating emergency warnings and information before, during and after a tsunami, cyclone or storm.
This project follows a comprehensive 2014 marine radio communications review commissioned by MRNSW and funded by a NSW Government grant, he said. We expect to see all projects delivered by the start of the 2018-19 peak summer period.
MRNSW owns maintains and operates the only marine radio network for the State’s boating community. It is used by recreational boaters, small commercial operators, transiting vessels, race fleets and government agencies.