Thanet RNLI Community Safety

What Is The Difference Between a Personal Locator Beacon and an Automatic Identification System

Our team undertake lifejacket clinic’s at lifeboat station’s, yacht clubs and harbours from time to time and enjoy chatting to yachtsmen and women about all aspects of maritime safety.  One question which crops up regularly relates to….. “what is the difference between a personal locator beacon and an automatic identification system”…… So, we have put together this blog to simply explain the differences.

 

Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)

A PLB is a manually activated device that’s transmit’s a radio signal on the 406 MHz frequency to specific Cospas-Sarsat (international, humanitarian search and rescue system) low-earth orbiting and GPS satellites which detect and locate aviators, mariner’s and land-based users such as climbers, hikers or mountain bikers in remote locations in distress. The satellites then relay information, via ground tracking stations and Mission Control Centre’s (MCC), and then onto a rescue co-ordination centre.

NMOC Coastguard RNLICommunitySafety respectthewater RNLIcommunitysafety RNLIWatersafety RNLIseasafety RNLI
National Maritime Operation’s Centre – Fareham

Where is the UK’s Mission Control Centre?

The designated UK Mission Control Centre (MCC) is the National Maritime Operation’s Centre (NMOC) based at Fareham in Hampshire.  Wherever in the world a UK registered PLB is activated, the Mission Control Centre in the respective country which it is operated will then pass the details to the NMOC for further action and investigation.  This may involve the NMOC tasking search and rescue assets eg lifeboat, helicopter, Coastguard Rescue Team etc to the last location transmitted if in the UK.

How do PLB’s work?

Most PLB’s are also equipped with GPS receivers, thus being able to calculate and send an accurate location embedded within the beacon’s 406 MHz message. Other PLB’s without GPS rely solely upon the less accurate Doppler principle to establish the beacon’s position. The beacon also transmits a homing signal on VHF, to which Search and Rescue helicopters; and lifeboats can home in on.

The signal transmitted by the distress radio beacon includes a digital message which allows the transmission of encoded data such as the unique identifier for the beacon that transmitted the alert and if the beacon has an integral GPS, the beacon’s position.  Otherwise the beacon’s signal may need to be detected by two or three satellites before its position can be sufficiently estimated, therefore it may take longer for Search and Rescue assets to locate the PLB and it’s owner.

Return Link Service PLB’s

Return Link Service PLB’s are being activated during 2020, which is a re-assurance signal back to a new generation of SAR beacons to inform the user that their distress signal and location have been detected. This new capability is unique to the Galileo satellites. A detailed blog explaining this new concept will be posted soon.

 

What happens when you have purchased a PLB?

Once a PLB unit is purchased, there are no subscription fees and the battery should last, if not used, for 5-6 years.  You must register the PLB with the Marine Coastguard Agency and maintain accurate registration details, including the 24-hour Emergency Point of Contact details. UK Beacon Registry contact details: ukbeacons@mcga.gov.uk Tel: 01326 211569

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PLB’s are Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) approved. The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System is the technical, operational and administrative structure for maritime distress and safety communications worldwide.

 

How does the Automatic Identification System (AIS) work?

Automatic Identification System (AIS) Man-overboard (MOB) is a personal locator device that works electronically exchanging data with multiple ships and base station’s via VHF.  It is not GMDSS approved or monitored in the UK by the HM Coastguard. It is also limited in range (around 5 miles in open water). An AIS MOB device can be rigged into a lifejacket to activate automically with the inflation of a lifejacket.

AIS is also a requirement for larger pleasure vessels on some European inland waterways.  This varies by country and regionally by waterway.

 

Further useful references

Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Communications

What are the advantages of an EPIRB (Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon)

RNLI – PLB’s and EPIRB’s

 

Acknowledgements

HM Coastguard

RNLI

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Our Top 7 Yacht Sailing and Motorboating Safety Tips

I am sure that you will agree that there is nothing quite like white sails billowing against a lovely blue sky, the breeze and spray on your face. It can be exciting, challenging and relaxing.  Although, no matter where or what type of boat you sail there is one factor that you must take into account before embarking on a voyage SAFETY.  In this blog we will consider 7 Safety Tips which will help you minimise the hazards enabling you, your crew and passengers to have a fabulous, but safe time on the water.

 

1.   Lifejackets

You may have read our previous blogs or social media postings about the critical importance of wearing a correctly fitted and maintained lifejacket or personal floation aid (PFD).  When out on the water boating or sailing whatever the weather our advice is always to wear a lifejacket and that goes for each member of your crew and passengers.  Why not check out the excellent RNLI video below which explores how to fit a buoyancy aid correctly.

There is lots of helpful information available on-line about lifejackets and how to fit and maintain them correctly.  Find out more about some essential lifejacket checks

As well as wearing a fully serviced lifejacket we also highly recommend wearing crotch straps.  If you are uncertain why you should wear them check out the video below:

2.  Training

Lifeboat crews are often called out to sailors in difficulty who have over estimated their skill and knowledge level.   Be totally honest with yourself about your skill level. If you are in any doubt why not enrol onto an RYA course.   Courses can help you prepare for anything, whether your a complete novice,  living onboard, enjoying a coastal cruising or venturing further offshore.

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3.  Check Your Engine

Nearly 20% of all Lifeboat call-outs are to sailing and motor cruisers suffering from mechanical failure.  Having a good knowledge of your boat’s engine, carrying spares and being able to fit them could make the difference between having to call for help and being able to help yourself.  The RYA run disel engine courses which are highly popular.  The RNLI produces some free downloadable resources to help you with engine maintenance.

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4.  Emily’s Code

On 2nd May 2015, 14-year-old Emily Gardner tragically drowned in a boating accident. An ill-fitting buoyancy aid snagged on the cleat of a capsized speedboat. In her memory, her family helped draw up the following mnemonic to highlight key safety messages and they provide a great rule of thumb for any sailor to follow:

 

5.  Check the weather & conditions

The weather can make or break your day. Regularly checking the weather forecast and sea conditions can help you if you planning a lengthy voyage.  Downloading the SafeTrx App provides key Inshore waters weather forecasts, as well as tracking your trip and alerting your emergency contact if you are overdue.

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6.   Calling for Help

Life-threatening incidents can occur at any time without warning and in any weather!  Having a means of ‘calling for help’ and that everyone on your crew/passengers knows how to use them will enable you to get help to you should an incident occur as quickly as possible.  Incidents can go unnoticed even in busy waters close to the coastline.

There is a range of different devices for ‘calling for help on the market. Whichever one you choose and we recommend you use more than one – you must be able to reach it easily in an emergency. Don’t rely on a single method of calling for help as one may not work.  We have included a range of ‘calling for help’ devices below:

VHFradio callingforhelp respectthewater

EPIRB callingforhelp RNLI RNLICommunitySafetyTeam

 

 

 

 

 

mobilephone

RNLICommunitysafetyteam Callingforhelp seasafety bewateraware sailing yachting kitesurfing

7.  Advice on Board (AOB)

Advice Onboard is a totally free of charge service that’s suitable for anyone who goes to sea on a pleasure vessel of less than 13.7m. It’s available in all parts of the UK and Ireland. It’s tailored to your particular vessel and the type of boating you do.

Whether you are highly experienced or a complete novice sailor or boater you’ll benefit from this free and friendly service. The safety advice session takes place onboard your vessel at a time that’s convenient for you.

lifejacket clinic, Community Safety, Thanet, Sea safety. RNLI

This service is provided by experienced and highly trained RNLI volunteers and will provide you with independent advice about your boat’s safety equipment. You’ll also have an opportunity to ask any of those burning questions about safety drills, equipment or emergency procedures that you may have put off asking for some time.

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Thanet RNLI CS Team undertaking an Advice on Board session

Our team can also check your lifejackets as part of the AOB session. However, we still recommend that you have your lifejackets serviced by a service agent or the manufacturer at the recommended intervals.  Find out more about how our lifejacket clinics are helping to keep sailors safe.

We hope that you have enjoyed this blog. If you would like to book an Advice on Board session or lifejacket check/clinic with our team you can get in touch by emailing Andrew_Mills@RNLI.org.uk

lifejackets RNLICommunitySafetyTeam seasafety

SAFETY CHECK LIST

  • Always wear a properly serviced and fitting lifejacket or personal floatation device
  • Always carry a means of calling for help eg VHF radio, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), flares, EIRB, mobile phone with SafeTrx app
  • Have an emergency action plan and make sure everyone aboard receives a detailed briefing (covering the location and use of the safety equipment, including the spare kill cord for powerboats. Practising ‘man overboard’ drills is very important).
  • Arrange to attend some training from an approved training provider
  • Always check the weather and tide times before you embark on your voyage
  • Tell someone ashore your voyage plan and who to call if you don’t return on time
  • Always drive your boat at a speed that is appropriate to the weather conditions and to the environment you are operating in

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Acknowledgements

RNLI

RYA

HM Coastguard