Emergency Signalling Options

Boat US just published an article in their Seaworthy magazine titled “Emergency Signalling Options”. While the majority of the article provides good information there are several discrepancies in the EPIRB and PLB sections (the only sections I am technically knowledgeable enough to comment on).

First to the ‘pros’ of EPIRBs:

  • I agree with what Boat US says.

‘Cons’ of EPIRBs:

  • Boat US states that “EPIRBs can not be taken from vessel to vessel. They must be registered to a specific vessel, so you can’t legitimately use one unit for multiple vessels”. With the online registration process you can change the vessel information for a beacon as long as it is done 24 hours prior to sailing. While this is not something you can or should do on a daily basis plenty of vessel operators do move from vessel to vessel and change the registration information.
  • The cost figures stated are inflated. I sell the GME brand and the least expensive Category 2 model is $449.00 and the most expensive Category 1 unit with GPS is $765.00.

‘Pros’ of PLBs:sinopsis film

  • Boat US implies that PLBs are a Crew Overboard location device. The vast majority of vessels do not have the capability to receive the 121.5 MHz homing beacon that a PLB transmits. If you are considering to use a PLB in this manner you must deal with your onboard equipment. There are better devices such as the Kannad R-10 AIS Survivor Recovery System which utilize electronics you probably already own.

‘Cons’ of PLBs:

  • Boat US says “not only do they suffer from the same limited-data constraints of the EPIRB, they actually transmit even less data, since they don’t include vessel information.”  Sorry to say this is flat out incorrect. EPIRBs do not transmit vessel information, ELTs (the aircraft version) do not transmit aircraft information, and PLBs do not transmit personal information. What they all transmit is a set of unique identifying information. In the United States that is the Country Code and a serial number. When a signal is received, SAR staff know which countries data base contains the full data and turn to that for their information. When one registers an EPIRB or PLB there is a field for “additional information”, so with a PLB it is possible to enter the data about your vessel should you so desire.
  • Boat US missed the biggest ‘con’ regarding PLBs in marine use. They are not required to float! Some units do but they are not the tiny form factor ones popular in most stores. Others come with a flotation pouch and some require you to purchase a device to keep the PLB afloat. Even the ones that float, will not float with the antenna out of the water like an EPIRB will.
  • The statement that “they have half the guaranteed battery life” is misleading. There is no guarantee on how long either device will work. There are standards the units must be designed to and tested against. For and EPIRB it is transmitting for a minimum of 48 hours at -20 degrees, PLBs must transmit for 24 hours at the same cold temperature. Depending on the age of the battery pack and the operating temperature you will see major differences from the design standard.

EPIRBs and PLBs are the correct choice for your primary life saving package. Even if you buy a new PLB rather than having the battery replaced the cost works out to $3.56 per month.  A top end EPIRB works out to $13.41 per month and that includes replacing the hydrostatic release every two years. It is pretty inexpensive insurance for a system that has been proven to save lives.