The U.S. Coast Guard Mid-Atlantic is working to raising awareness related to commercial fishing vessel safety including the importance of having and properly registering an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB), an invaluable device designed to transmit a distress signal if you get into trouble at sea.
EPIRBs aren’t just for boaters, either. Commercial fishing remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, and by law all commercial fishing vessels operating more than three nautical miles from the coast are required to carry one of the devices, whether offshore, on inland waters or the Great Lakes.
The U.S. Coast Guard 5th District for the Mid-Atlantic region recently held a media event in order draw attention the importance of the life-saving EPIRBS and their role in commercial fishing vessel safety. While vessel owners and operators are ultimately responsibility over the safety or any vessel, the Coast Guard aims to foster safety in the industry by enforcing regulations and providing oversight of safety practices and procedures.
All commercial fishing vessels are legally required to follow regulations listed in 46 Code of Federal Regulations Part 28 – Requirements for Commercial Fishing Industry Vessels, regardless of type, size or state or federally-registered.
According to the Coast Guard, the Mid-Atlantic region alone is home to approximately 5,800 commercial fishing vessels. Coast Guard commercial fishing vessel safety examiners with the 5th District conduct over 500 dockside examinations a year, and between 500 and 600 at-sea boardings by Coast Guard boarding officers.
Coast Guard 5th District examiners and boarding officers also issue on average 40 EPIRB-related deficiencies to commercial fishing vessels each year, but vessels can avoid violations and penalties by having the proper equipment from the start.
Once activated, an EPIRB sends your location to the Coast Guard to kick off search and rescue efforts, making them fastest and most-accurate way of calling for help during an emergency at sea. EPIRBs also continue to transmit your location, providing command centers with updated positions and data based on current conditions during search and rescue.
Vessels over 36-feet are required to have a Category 1 EPIRB which automatically release from their mounting brackets when immersed in water, while Category 2 EPIRBs must be manually released. Both can be activated automatically by immersion in water, as well as manually.
The Coast Guard also highlights current registration as the surest way to correctly notify the SAR system, as well as allows the Coast Guard to contact your family or other point of contact to find out additional details. To register or update your EPIRB, go to https://beaconregistration.noaa.gov/RGDB/. You can also check your registration status by calling 888-212-SAVE (888-212-7283), where can speak with a real person about your registration status.
The Coast Guard also highly recommends all commercial fishing vessels undergo safety exams even though all vessels are not required (for commercial fishing vessels operating beyond three nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline or Great Lakes coastline, safety exams are mandatory).
For over 20 years, the Coast Guard has conducted no-cost, no-fault voluntary dockside safety exams on commercial fishing vessels, issuing a safety decal valid for two years for successful completion of the exam. The Coast Guard also says it is beneficial for every commercial fishing vessel to maintain a current safety decal, which could facilitate a more streamlined safety check if boarded at sea.