Tuesday, April 10, 2007

121.5/243-MHz EPIRBS Banned

BoatU.S.magazine reports in its March issue that the U.S. Coast Guard has banned the use of 121.5-MHz Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB) beginning January 1, 2008. This is in preparation for the shut-off of satellite reception on these frequencies, which is set to take place on February 1, 2009. The ban applies to all Class A, B, and S products, but does not affect 121.5-MHz man-overboard systems, which work by alerting a base station onboard the boat and not the satellite system. (Check out the June issue of Power & Motoryacht for a roundup of all the MOB systems on the market.)

The article says boaters planning to travel more than 20 miles offshore should now use only 406-MHz EPIRBs, whose signals are picked up by the COSPAS-SARSAT satellites worldwide. The 406-MHz beacons send "smart" signals coded with information such as vessel identity and location to search-and-rescue stations around the world.

The biggest problem with 121.5 beacons has been false alerts. According to BoatU.S., only one out of 50 alerts from a 121.5 is actually a distress call; and the rest are false alerts. Since 406 beacons are required by law to be registered to the owner, false alarms have been reduuced.

You can register your 406-MHz EPIRB online at NOAA or by calling (888) 212-SAVE. Additionally, the BoatU.S. Foundation says it will continue to rent 406-MHz EPIRBs; reservations can be made online at BoatU.S. Foundation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

gCaptain just had an important artice for all epirb owners: EPIRB Failure on the F/V Papa George. Make sure you test yours!