Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Australian Penchant for Procedure Could Leave You Stranded

We were not able to register our EPIRB with AMSA (Australian Seach and Rescue) because of a bureaucratic technicality. AMSA will not recieve direct notice of our distress signal should we ever have to activate our EPIRB.

It's not that our 2 year old EPIRB uses an unmonitored frequency, or doesn't have the required positioning accuracy for a GPS, or wouldn't be perfectly adequate for saving our lives in an emergency. And not because it's battery will only last 24 hours. Not that it's a personal locator beacon rather than a ship's EPIRB. The reason turned out to be that Australia doesn't listen to any device broadcasting the "country code" P in morse code on the beacon frequency. And that's exactly what any US manufactured PLB EPIRB does! Or at least our ACR ResQFix PLB-300 does. I just hope the US Coast Guard our our emergency contacts in the states make some calls to AMSA if our beacon goes off near Australia. Otherwise we might be left stranded. AMSA refuses to listen to our beacon or even let us register it. All because a morse code "P" and is contrary to Australian standards. Though I'm sure an Australian country code is hunky dory. This exact model is sold in Australia, so it must be coded to output the Australian country code or no country code at all.

We're fortunate enough to be participating in the Louisiades Rally, so AMSA is scheduled to brief us in person and verify all of our EPIRB registrations along with other safety equipment before allowing us to receive their endorsement to sail to PNG. So maybe they'll pull some strings and consider allowing us to register with 25 other boats helping us plead our case. We'll see.

Here's the exact language from AMSA:
United States Coded PLBs
We are aware that the United States requires all PLBs for use in the US to transmit the letter "P" in Morse over the homing frequency of 121.5 MHz. This is not permitted under Australian Standards nor by the ACMA's miscellaneous Devices Class Licence that references these Standards and therefore these distress beacons should not be used in Australia.
For more details see "http://beacons.amsa.gov.au/beacon-models.html"

It's no wonder more and more international cruisers are choosing New Zealand over Australia for their cyclone season shelter. It's little things like this, plus predatory parking and speeding regulations in all the major cities, exorbitant customs and AQIS clearance fees and visa fees, atrocious mail service (and you think we have it bad). Maybe it's just Queensland and not the rest of Australia. We know at least one boat that concluded their circumnavigation adventure here in frustration at the expense and hassle of living here waiting for the right season to leave... and they were both permanent residents! Just think how unwelcome an American boat owner feels. Our disenfranchised cruising friends had returned to the place they spent their adult working life only to find it had grown into something they didn't like anymore!

Another piece of safety equipment you'll want to avoid south of the equator is flare guns. They are illegal in many countries, like PNG and Australia. They're considered to be a weapon. Turns out Australia also bans cross-bows (like some spear fishing guns) and any knife a customs officer considers to be a weapon. So you could have your coconut-cracking machete confiscated if they don't like the look of you or your boat. So not only will you be stranded without AMSA responding to your EPRIB, but you won't have a pistol flare to aim your parachute flares well enough to get you noticed by passing ships, and if you end up on a desert island you'll starve for not being able to spearfish or open coconuts (if you happen to carry coconut or fish harvesting devices that look like weapons). I'm proud to be an American... where at least I can carry an flare gun...

No comments:

Post a Comment