Though AIS Is Required, It May Not Be the Best Solution for Your Safety

The ruling, “Vessel Requirements for Notices of Arrival and Departure and Automatic Identification System”  becomes effective March 2. However, you have until March 1, 2016 to install the AIS.

AIS or Automatic Identification System is now required on all vessels 65 feet or longer. Primarily for the benefit of being able to identify boats in the area, AIS has also been touted as a life-saving technology with fall-overboard (FOB) awareness and location of person who fell overboard using GPS technology embedded in the AIS device. However, the truth is that AIS is not the best solution for FOB awareness or for that matter, the location of the person who fell overboard.

It’s the technology that also is the hindrance. Because personal AIS beacons, such as the Safelink R10, require the use of an AIS enabled chart-plotter, several things need to occur before the fall overboard becomes apparent. The first issue is an AIS enabled FOB locator needs to be manually activated. This assumes that the person who fell overboard is physically and mentally capable of activating the device. Another solution for the activation of an AIS device is the automatic inflation of the PFD which will trigger the device to activate. This is dependent on the technology of the PFD to work properly. For example, will Mustang warranty that the Safelink R10 attached to it will work?

Once the AIS device is activated, a GPS fix will be delivered and then transmitted to an AIS enabled chart-plotter. In many cases the FOB will not appear as a FOB (typically marked as a red “X”)*. It will simply appear as another craft (an arrow). If the alert Captain notices the FOB they will have the coordinates of the person in the water. The coordinates will be useful for alerting other vessels in the area of the MOB. However, sometimes finding a person in rough waters may become more difficult than simply steering the rescue boat to the direction of the GPS coordinates. Most skippers are better at visual clues than looking at a screen for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

So how is the ALERT2 Man-Overboard Alarm System™ different from AIS enabled devices? Simply put, the ALERT2 is designed to alert the vessel that someone just fell off of it. Because the transmission is proprietary between transmitter and receiver, the transmission of the alarm can begin automatically, and as soon as the device is triggered. No wait for manual activation or GPS coordinates. The most successful chance of rescue will occur from the boat the person just fell off of. The fact that the receiver in the wheelhouse or the engine-kill capabilities can be triggered immediately and automatically is in itself the best reason an ALERT2 is better than an AIS enabled device. The chance of getting a visual on the FOB is greater, and therefore the Skipper can steer the boat on a visual rescue procedure with a greater chance of success in reaching the person quickly and not running them over! In the event a visual is not made, the ALERT2 Portable Direction Finder™ can be used to home in on the ALERT2 Transmitter’s transmission.

Emerald Marine Products manufacturers life-saving products and applauds other manufacturers whose products can also save lives. But consumers need to understand that AIS enabled products better serve the purpose of identifying vessels not people. When it comes to a life-saving device that alerts crew of a fall overboard, ALERT2 is the solid, reliable, affordable solution. For more information about the workings of the ALERT2 Man-Overboard Alarm System, read more here, contact us, or call 1.800.426.4201 to talk to an expert about your safety needs.

* From 750 Safelink R10 Product Sheet. As AIS SARTs are still very new, not all small-craft chart plotters with AIS show the correct SART icon as recommended by the IMO. At the very least, they will show the same icon as used for other craft – normally an arrow. In addition, user settings generally allow you to configure the display to show the MMSI number, which in the R10 always begins with 972. This way you can differentiate the R10 from other vessels. If in doubt, check with your plotter manufacturer how they display SARTs on screen.
All new ECDIS plotters (on ships over 300 tonnes) will display the SART icon correctly.