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D-day for EPIRBs

by Bob Wonders on 10 Nov 2008
Simrad 406 Epirb . ©
As from November 1 all boats venturing two nautical miles offshore must carry a 406MHz digital EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), the new regulation applying to yacht and sailboat owners, powerboaters, even commercial operators.

Simply purchasing a 406MHz EPIRB and placing it aboard is not enough; the unit must be registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre.

Registration is free and will allow the centre to access the registration database to locate contact details, boat type and emergency contact numbers.

The authority says registration information should include boat ownership information, all contact details, size and type of boat involved and registered address of owner.

EPIRB owners must also notify the authority if and when a beacon is disposed of.

There is also a facility allowing owners to file trip itineraries, so that when an EPIRB is activated the rescue centre will have access to current movement and be better placed to affect a response.

The authority also recommends advising a ‘responsible person’ or a volunteer marine rescue organisation of trip details.

Each 406MHz EPIRB on registration will be issued with a sticker provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to provide owners of the units and marine inspectors with proof of current registration.

This sticker will note the UIN (Unique Identity Number) of the beacon, its expiry date (two-years after initial registration), the boat and owner’s names.

It must be affixed to the beacon and a fine could result if during an inspection of safety equipment an EPIRB is found with no sticker.

The UIN is a unique code programmed into each 406MHz EPIRB and is transmitted when the beacon is activated.

When registering an EPIRB, this code must be included on the registration form as it is the only code linking the individual beacon to the registration database; without this code the beacon cannot be registered.

The code comprises 15 characters made up of hexadecimal numbers (0-9) and letters (A-F) and can be found on he labels of all 406MHz EPIRBS.

Other recommendations from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority include;

• EPIRBs should only be used when there is a threat of grave or imminent danger.

• An EPIRB should be stowed in its supplied mounting bracket where it is visible and easily accessed.

• If an EPIRB is accidentally activated, switch off the unit and telephone the Rescue Coordination Centre as soon as possible on 1800 641 792.

• If an EPIRB is lost, stolen, destroyed or sold the authority must be notified; this can be done on line at www.amsa.gov.au/beacons
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