It is compulsory to carry a registered 406 MHz EPIRB on some classes of vessels as of 1 July 2008. If you were previously required by law to carry a 121.5 MHz EPIRB, then you should have already upgraded to a 406 MHz EPIRB.
What is an EPIRB?
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) are distress beacons designed for maritime environments. They are waterproof and designed to float upright in water. Some require manual activation, and some have additional safety devices, such as strobe lights. Others are self-activating and will float free in the event of an emergency. The battery life of an EPIRB is normally twice as long as a PLB.
What kind of 406 MHz EPIRB do I need?
There is a wide range of beacons suitable for marine use. Some are activated manually, while others will float free and activate automatically if the vessel sinks. In some cases a smaller, waterproof Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) may be suitable, and can also be used for other purposes such as tramping, climbing, gliding and other outdoor activities. PLB’s are small enough to fit in your pocket and are activated manually, but most do not float and they have a shorter battery-life than EPIRBs.
We strongly recommend you purchase a beacon with built-in GPS as this dramatically improves their accuracy. This means your location can be identified by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) on the first contact with a satellite. Without GPS it would require two satellites to pick up your beacon signal, to resolve the ambiguity of the satellite positions. The time between satellite passes varies greatly, ranging between 20 minutes to 4.5 hours.
Your local supplier will be able to advise you on the most suitable option for your needs, taking into account the kind of boating activity you engage in.
Maritime New Zealand rules
Offshore pleasure vessels heading overseas are required to carry a 406 MHz EPIRB. Yachts undertaking coastal races where Category 2 or 3 safety rules apply must carry a 406 MHz EPIRB as of 1 February 2009. For further advice, contact the Maritime New Zealand Recreational Boating Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
For some classes of vessels, it became compulsory to carry registered 406 MHz EPIRBs from 1 July 2008. To determine if this applies to you, please contact your nearest Maritime New Zealand office or check out the relevant rules at http://www.maritimenz.govt.nz/rules/. In basic terms, if you were previously required to carry a 121 MHz or 243 MHz EPIRB, then you are now required to upgrade it to a 406 MHz EPIRB.
For more information on the rules, please contact your nearest Maritime New Zealand office or visit www.maritimenz.govt.nz/.
What kind of EPIRB do I have now?
If you don’t know what kind of EPIRB you have already, please take the time to have a look at it soon. Somewhere on its body it will be marked with an operating frequency. If it doesn’t say 406 MHz, it will more than likely need to be replaced. If in doubt, take it to an EPIRB supplier for verification. Click here to find your local beacon supplier.
Where should I keep my EPIRB?
Where you keep your EPIRB depends on the type of EPIRB and where you are installing it.
If your EPIRB comes with a mounting bracket, place it where it is visible and easy to access in an emergency. If the EPIRB and mount have a magnetic-activated mounting switch ensure that the two magnets are face to face. Make sure the EPIRB stays dry and keep it locked away when nobody is onboard. If you are using a PLB, you must keep it on your person.
In the life raft
If you have an inflatable life raft onboard, an additional beacon can be stored inside the raft.
Keep the beacon away from:
- equipment that may accidentally knock the activation switch.
- magnetic sources, such as microphones and radio speakers (some beacons are activated by a magnetic on/off switch)
- high water pressure
- children who may accidentally turn it on.
Note: If you are moving beacons, always make sure they are in the 'safe' or 'off' mode.
Don't buy a foreign 406 MHz beacon!
Each country has an individual 406 code. When you purchase a 406 MHz distress beacon, make sure it is coded for New Zealand. The New Zealand Country Code is 512. If you buy one from overseas or over the Internet, it could be an expensive mistake, as when activated, the satellite may notify the wrong rescue coordination centre, which could mean a long, potentially life-threatening delay in your rescue.
You must register your new beacon.
This means search and rescue can contact you or a person you nominate to verify activation if your beacon goes off. This improves search response time and cuts down on false alarms. Once your beacon is registered you will need to keep your details up to date and notify the register if the beacon changes ownership.
How to register
There are two easy ways to register your 406 MHz beacon:
- Fill out the online 406 registration form.
- Or download the PDF
registration form, fill it in and post, email or fax your form
Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand
PO Box 30050
Lower Hutt 5040
Fax: +64 4 577 8041
Email email@example.com or
Phone 0800 406 111 if you have any questions about registering your beacon.
Disposing of old beacons
Old EPIRBs need to be correctly disposed of in case they activate accidentally and trigger a false alarm. Active beacons have been found at the bottom of rubbish tips, triggering expensive and unnecessary search operations. There is also the risk that someone may think one of the old 121.5 MHz EPIRBs is a useful safety device.
It is also important to the environment that beacons are disposed of correctly. The batteries are normally toxic and must be disposed of in accordance with the relevant regulations. Please take the batteries out before disposing of an old beacon, or return it to your beacon retailer.
If you sell or dispose of a registered 406 MHz beacon, please let RCCNZ know
by phoning 0800 406 111.