Coast Guard Buying Up to 16,000 Personal Locator Beacons

gCaptain has reported that the Coast Guard will recommend that all lifejackets on ocean-going vessels be equipped with Personal Locator Beacons.

“In the United States Coast Guard’s upcoming El Faro investigation report, Captain Jason Neubauer USCG, Chairman of the Marine Board of Investigation, will recommend that all Personal Flotation Devices on oceangoing commercial vessels be outfitted with a Personal Locator Beacon.”

“The investigation report does not call for a second EPIRB equipped with GPS, as some marine safety experts have called for, but takes the additional step of recommending that PLB’s be attached to all lifejackets aboard oceangoing commercial vessels.”

Apparently the Coast Guard is taking the lesson to heart. Intelligent-Aerospace reports the Coast Guard has let a $3 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with options for up to 16,000 McMurdo Fast Find 220 Personal Locator beacons.

According to the manufacturer,

The McMurdo FastFind 220 is small and light enough for you to carry on your person at all times. Using advanced technology, the FastFind 220 transmits a unique ID and your current GPS co-ordinates via the Cospas-Sarsat global search and rescue satellite network, alerting the rescue services within minutes. Once within the area, the search and rescue services can quickly home in on your location using the unit’s 121.5Mhz homing beacon and flashing LED SOS light.

These PLBs are available from a variety of sources including on-line for $190-$300. 16,000 PLBs for $3M would average $187.50 each.

Considering what we do, this looks like a good investment. Presumably every aircraft, boat, and cutter crewman will have one of these on their lifejacket or perhaps their work uniform.


6 thoughts on “Coast Guard Buying Up to 16,000 Personal Locator Beacons

  1. The Coast Guard already requires a PLB for at least all their small boat people, this is probably just a change of vendors from ACR that they currently use and also might be expanding to all on the water people (I don’t know if the Cutter crews are required to have the PLB’s, but given the Coast Guard standardizing on protective equipment I would be surprised if most of them did not already have the PLB’s), I think the McMurdo is easier and costs less to service.

  2. This is better than inaction but I wonder in the AIS based man overboard beacons might be a better choice for many situations. Once an alert is generatedI doubt that many vessels of opportunity are able to locate a person in the water with a PLB as quickly as one with an AIS based beacon. Nearby all commercial vessels and an increasing number of recreational boats have AIS installed. It’s a trade-off, I wouldn’t wasn’t to be swimming in the middle of nowhere with an only an AIS based beacon if nobody knew I was in trouble but presumably boat/ship based EPIRBs will fulfill the need to create a distress alert and get resources of all types sent to the general area.

  3. IF the cutters are GMDSS compliasnt (?) there is already a system to track lifeboats and other boats via SART.
    “The GMDSS installation on ships include one (two on vessels over 500 GT) Search and Rescue Locating device(s) called Search and Rescue Radar Transponders (SART) which are used to locate survival craft or distressed vessels by creating a series of twelve dots on a rescuing ship’s 3 cm radar display. The detection range between these devices and ships, dependent upon the height of the ship’s radar mast and the height of the Search and Rescue Locating device, is normally about 15 km (8 nautical miles). Once detected by radar, the Search and Rescue Locating device will produce a visual and aural indication to the persons in distress.”

  4. Unless I have my terminology incorrect, the Coast Guard is already requiring and supplying similar units to CG Auxiliarists who go underway for patrols, SAR cases, etc., at least in my district (5th Northern, Southern Area; south central Pennsylvania).

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