Yachting Monthly contributor Alastair Buchan believes emergency beacon registration needs to be made much simpler

Since emergency beacons evolved from large ‘lollipop’ type

objects which hung from a bulkhead to items small enough to be carried in a

jacket pocket it has been more complicated to keep track of them.

Because the same unit can be registered to a user’s own

boat, but then carried aboard another boat when he or she is crewing for

someone else, or taken for a ramble along a coastline, or even for a climbing

expedition a nearby mountain, registry needs to be made simpler, argues YM

contributor Alastair Buchan.

It’s important that when the Coastguard calls in a rescue

helicopter to a bleeping emergency beacon, that the crew know what they are

looking for.

To that end the Maritime & Coastguard Agency want all

users of EPIRBs, PLBs and ELTs, to register them, and also to re-register them

when necessary and to cancel them when they are no longer in use.

“Technology has advanced beyond bureaucracy,” says

Alastair, “and there are different data bases for EPIRBs, Coastguard forms and transit requirements. It would be much simpler if the end user could go online himself, look at a box, and fill in where he is going, what he is on and what his passage plans are. It should be about giving public control of their beacon records, but the MCA have been too complacent over this.”

In the meantime Yachting Monthly has devised a five-point

plan for making registering, updating beacons and initiating a rescue after an

alert quicker and easier. The plan is all based upon making the interaction

between beacon owners and the MCA as simple as possible.

1. Put the entire process online, accessible 24/7 by beacon

owners via computer, tablet or smartphone.

2. The MCA’s present registration form under the heading

Type of Vessel offers a choice between Merchant, Fishing and Pleasure. It then

goes on, under the same heading, to include PLBs, ELTs (Emergency Locator

Transmitters), and aircraft (already covered by ELTs) and asks that the

completed form is sent off to the EPIRB registry at Falmouth. A separate form

for aviation use asks that it is returned to the UKMCC at RAF Kinloss. Since,

depending on its owner, a single PLB could, at different times, legitimately be

in the air, at sea or roaming the hills, there needs to be a single portal for registering and updating beacons.

3. Merge the CG66 registration with beacon registration. If

there is an alert the MCA wants as many details about the vessel as possible.

It makes sense to have these details in the one place.

4. Make the starting screen clearer by asking what the individual wishes to do:

* Register a new beacon and have separate pages for ships,

planes and individuals

* Update an existing registration

* Cancel a registration

After ticking the appropriate box the user is taken to the

right screen depending on the answer ticked.

5. When an owner wishes to update a registration they

should be able to access directly their details as they appear on the register.

There should be a section for CURRENT/PROPOSED ACTIVITY where they could say

what they plan to do: eg a general description of a cruise or specific

information on a particular passage. Details of transit reports given to

Coastguard over the VHF could be entered by the Coastguard if the vessel does

not have access the web. All updates including those on current/proposed

activities would be timed and dated.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK

Are we, as beacon-owning leisure sailors, really the

problem? The Coastguard thinks so, but Yachting Monthly is not convinced.

Complete the survey below to give the authorities the real picture.