Float-free EPIRBs soon mandatory for some boats

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From January 2021 having float-free auto-activating EPIRBs, which can send a call for help within minutes of being submerged in water, without any action by the crew, will become compulsory.

SKIPPERS operating out of the Two Rocks marina and Lancelin need to be aware float-free EPIRBs will be mandatory on certain types of commercial vessels from 2021.

The change to safety requirements is in response to tragic incidents in which commercial vessels sank quickly and the skipper and crew were not able to deploy their float-free emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) in time.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) standards general manager Brad Groves said float-free EPIRBs offered significant safety advantages for crew and passengers on vessels in distress.

“If a vessel rapidly capsizes or sinks, the survival of the passengers and crew depends on the transmission of a distress signal.” he said.

“A float-free auto-activating EPIRB can send a call for help within minutes of being submerged in water, without any action by the crew.”

Mr Groves said AMSA was giving industry a two-year transition period to plan for the added cost of fitting a float-free EPIRB, but encouraged owners to fit one to their vessel as soon as possible.

“This technology is available now and it will make you and your crew safer at sea.”

He said the authority carried out extensive consultation with the public and with industry about the changes.

The national standard for commercial vessels (NSCV) will change from January 1, 2019, with a two-year transition period for operators to comply.

“From then it will be mandatory for the following domestic commercial vessels to carry a float-free EPIRB all fishing, passenger and non-passenger domestic commercial vessels (Class 1, 2,  and 3) that are equal to or greater than 12m in length and operate beyond 2 nautical miles from land and all fishing, passenger and non-passenger domestic commercial vessels (Class 1, 2,  and 3) that are less than 12m in length operating in restricted offshore and offshore waters (B or C waters) and do not have level flotation,’’ he said.

It will also apply to all hire and drive vessels operating in restricted offshore waters (Class 4C) equal to or greater than 12m in length, or less than 12m and do not have level flotation.

“The change applies to new vessels, existing vessels and transitional vessels and also applies to vessels that are exempt from the requirement to have a certificate of survey.

“Vessels without level flotation that are less than 12m in length and operating in D and E waters will not be affected by the changes. “Similarly, all vessels that are less than 12m with level flotation can continue to carry the kind of EPIRB already required regardless of where they operate.”

The change does not affect coastal life rafts.

“During the transition period AMSA will consider an alternative option for owners of vessels less than 7.5m in length without level flotation operating in offshore waters.

“This will be in consultation with industry.

“A float-free EPIRB is just one element in ensuring the safety of passengers and crew.’’

He said it was just as important to prevent and control vessel risks, such as vessel stability and maintenance, crew training and fatigue management and operational risks and weather.

“Emergency equipment does not replace the need for vessel owners to work with their crews to develop rigorous safety management systems and instil an on board safety culture.”