EPIRB: Make the switch to 406

"Out on the cricket pitch good skippers take the lead. And on my boat I'm the skipper, so it's my responsibility to ensure that we're carrying the right safety gear.

So don't leave it to the last minute, make sure you upgrade to a 406 MHz distress beacon this year.

That's because from 1 February 2009, satellites will no longer process distress alerts from 121.5 MHz distress beacons. From this date, only 406 MHz distress beacons will be detected.

Matthew Hayden, Australia's greatest opening batsman

More information about 406MHz distress beacons is available on the AMSA beacons website.

From 30 March 2009, it became a requirement for all registered vessels navigating 2 nautical miles or more offshore to carry an EPIRB. View the regulation.

The Marine Safety (General) Regulation 2009 makes a 406MHz EPIRB required for all vessels, with some exceptions, when more than 2nm from the nearest shore. The exceptions are as follows:

  • a vessel (other than a PWC) used in connection with lifesaving or surf rescue by a council or by a lifesaving club affliated with Royal Life Saving Society - Australia or Surf Life Saving NSW
  • a surf boat, surf ski or windsurfing board
  • a tender
  • PWC, kayak or canoe
  • off-the-beach vessels.

An amendment to the Boating (Safety Equipment) Regulation – NSW, under the Maritime Services Act, required 406 MHz digital beacons to replace any 121.5 MHz analogue beacons from 1 July 2008. Distress beacons are also known as Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs).

To comply with the requirement, 406 MHz beacons must also be registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and carry a registration sticker.

From 1 February 2009, the outdated 121.5 MHz signal will no longer be monitored by aircraft or satellite.

Each 406 MHz beacon – registered to an individual person and their craft – carries a unique identification code, transmitted when the beacons is activated.

The unique code provides vital information about the registered boat and its owner - ensuring a faster and more effective search and rescue response appropriate to vessel size. Outdated analogue beacons provided only a position to rescuers.

Boaters must make the switch for safety's sake.

As an additional safety measure, any skipper going offshore should use their marine radio to alert the volunteer marine radio network with the details of the expected journey, and then log off on return.

For more information go to the AMSA beacons website and the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue website.

See the safety equipment checklist for a list of the safety equipment you are required to have on your boat.

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