Float-free EPIRB distress beacons compulsory from 1 January

10 December 2018

Maritime NZ is reminding operators they must install float-free EPIRB distress beacons on commercial fishing vessels by 1 January 2019. This applies to those vessels between 7.5 metres and 24 metres operating outside enclosed waters.

Domonic Venz, Maritime NZ’s Assistant Compliance Manager for Southern Region, who was previously a commercial fisherman, says float-free EPIRBs really do increase your chances of survival because they call for help when you can’t. It’s easy to get one on your boat, he says.

“When things go pear shaped at least the float free will notify Rescue Coordination Centre NZ for you. Too often we are unable to locate survivors due to the current manual EPIRB still being attached to the inside of the wheelhouse wall in a vessel that has sunk. The alternative is an ocean search – a time-consuming undertaking with a lower chance of finding you alive,” he says.

“Undoubtedly, float-free EPIRBs will save lives. We all know the sea can be an unforgiving mistress: you’re a minuscule speck, a needle in the proverbial haystack. You’ll be glad that you installed that float-free beacon, which calls for help when you can’t.”

man with beacons
Photo: Maritime NZ
Domonic Venz, Maritime NZ’s Assistant Compliance Manager for Southern Region.

Domonic reminds seafarers that you can still manually activate a float-free EPIRB if you find yourself in an emergency situation and have the time to do so.

If you already have a class 2 EPIRB with a category 2 bracket (manually deployed), your local retailer will be able to advise if there’s a category 1 bracket for your model of EPIRB.

Domonic says seafarers can ask their local Maritime Officer if they have questions or are looking for advice about float-free EPIRBs.

Compulsory float-free EPIRBs are supported by industry. The requirement was introduced following the deaths of 24 people over the last 11 years on inshore fishing boats that sank with manual EPIRBs on board that weren’t able to be deployed. The rule change was announced in February this year.

‘Outside enclosed waters’ refers to areas outside harbours, estuaries and other inland or sheltered waters.

Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4 – get a float-free EPIRB on your boat

  1. Find a retailer. Beacons.org.nz has a list of New Zealand retailers who sell float-free EPIRBs: https://beacons.org.nz/PurchaseorHire.aspx
  2. Buy your EPIRB in New Zealand. Beacons purchased outside of New Zealand may not meet the required standards outlined above or be New Zealand coded. EPIRBs must be coded so they can be registered in New Zealand.
  3. Register your beacon for free at www.beacons.org.nz
  4. Install it on your boat. Your retailer may be able to recommend someone who can install it for you, if you don’t want to do it yourself.

See below for helpful information on float-free EPIRBs:

Float-free EPIRBs

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