AMSA mandates float-free EPIRBS

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Source: Australian Maritime Safety Authority
Source: Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Float-free EPIRBs will be required for some commercial vessels from January 2021.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has announced that, as from 1 January 2021, it will be mandatory for certain types of commercial vessels to be fitted with float-free EPIRBs.

According to AMSA, the change is in response to incidents in which commercial vessels sank quickly and the master and crew were unable to deploy an EPIRB in time.

“If a vessel rapidly capsizes or sinks, the survival of the passengers and crew depends on the transmission of a distress signal,” said Brad Groves, AMSA general manager of standards.

“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.”

The rule change follows a public consultation period into the use of float-free EPIRBS earlier this year. As a result, the National Standard for Commercial Vessels (NSCV) will be changed from 1 January, 2019, followed by a two-year transition period.This is to allow vessel owners to plan for the added cost of fitting a float-free EPIRB although they are encouraged to fit one as soon as possible.

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

Commercial vessels affected by the requirement to carry a float-free EPIRB include:

  • all fishing, passenger and non-passenger domestic commercial vessels (Class 1, 2, and 3) that are equal to or greater than 12 metres in length and operate beyond 2 nautical miles from land;
  • all fishing, passenger and non-passenger domestic commercial vessels (Class 1, 2, and 3) that are less than 12 metres in length operating in restricted offshore and offshore waters (B or C waters) and do not have level flotation; and
  • all hire and drive vessels operating in restricted offshore waters (Class 4C) equal to or greater than 12 metres in length, or less than 12 metres and do not have level flotation.

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

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

The change does not affect coastal life rafts.

During the transition period AMSA said it will consider an alternative option for owners of vessels less than 7.5 metres in length without level flotation operating in offshore waters. This will be in consultation with industry.

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