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Old 04-12-2011, 01:24   #1
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EPIRB/PLB Registration Questions

I am planning to do some winter cruising this year, and of course the risks are greater with winter weather and fewer vessels around. I don't have an EPIRB so far as DSC VHF seems good enough in the areas I sail in so far, and it doesn't seem sensible to buy one and let the expensive battery expire for nothing. But a PLB in my life jacket seems like a great thing to have, so thinking about buying one when I'm in the States for Christmas.

Here's my question - I believe from what I have read that EPIRBs are registered to the ship, and come programmed already with a country code programmed in, which could be a problem if you buy an EPIRB in the US for use on a UK flagged boat. A PLB, on the other hand, is registered to one's person, not to any ship. So no problem for a US citizen to buy in the US and use on his UK registered boat (or his dinghy, or on other people's boats, or even hiking in Siberia). Does any of you know offhand whether this understanding is correct?
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Old 04-12-2011, 02:16   #2
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Re: EPIRB/PLB registration questions

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
I am planning to do some winter cruising this year, and of course the risks are greater with winter weather and fewer vessels around. I don't have an EPIRB so far as DSC VHF seems good enough in the areas I sail in so far, and it doesn't seem sensible to buy one and let the expensive battery expire for nothing. But a PLB in my life jacket seems like a great thing to have, so thinking about buying one when I'm in the States for Christmas.

Here's my question - I believe from what I have read that EPIRBs are registered to the ship, and come programmed already with a country code programmed in, which could be a problem if you buy an EPIRB in the US for use on a UK flagged boat. A PLB, on the other hand, is registered to one's person, not to any ship. So no problem for a US citizen to buy in the US and use on his UK registered boat (or his dinghy, or on other people's boats, or even hiking in Siberia). Does any of you know offhand whether this understanding is correct?
I can't give you an exact UK /USA understanding but all EPIRBs and PLBs are programmed with a country code and in most places of the world, you have to have this country code match the country in which you register it.

So if you buy one in USA, you will have to register it in the USA although you can use it anywhere; I am guessing that the USA might not register a PLB to a visiting alien!

For instance, to register either a EPIRB or PLB in Oz, it must be programmed with the Oz country code so I can't buy a PLB in the USA and register it in Oz. I suspect that the UK is the same.

Once registered it can be activated anywhere with hopefully good results! Of course they can be activated without being registered anywhere and here in Oz, it will be treated as a genuine distress call albeit there may be a delay in launching the search team as the RCC establishes WTF is going on. I don't know the situation in other areas of the world when an unregistered beacon is activated.
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Old 04-12-2011, 03:10   #3
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Re: EPIRB/PLB registration questions

I think you can still save money by buying your PLB in the US and then:

1. Deregistering it with NOAA. You could try calling the Lost Epirb number: 1-888-212-SAVE (7283) [from NOAA - Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking - Lost Beacon ]

2. Subsequently registering it with MRCC Falmouth: MCA - EPIRB


"When a beacon is sold to another country, the purchaser is responsible for having the beacon reprogrammed with a new country code and to register it with his/her nation's beacon registry, and the seller is responsible to de-register the deprecated beacon ID with his/her national beacon registry."

The whole lot about international beacons registrations is here [be careful, it's close to 1Mb]: http://www.cospas-sarsat.org/images/...S7SEP26.11.pdf
Wikipedia has a nice summary as well: Distress radiobeacon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Our experience with buying EPIRB in US for a Canadian flagged sailboat: we have it registered with NOAA. Our MMSI and phone numbers point to the Canadian origin. But Canada is close enough to US that this argument might not work for you.

If I were doing this in your place, first I would call/email MRCC Falmouth and ask if UK flagged vessel's EPIRB/PLB must be registered with the UK registry. And only then go through the whole deregistering/registering procedure.
Their email:epirb@mcga.gov.uk
Their phone number: + 44 (0)1326 211569

Once you decide and/or find out, could you please post here the results?
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Old 04-12-2011, 03:23   #4
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Re: EPIRB/PLB registration questions

Just how much are you trying to save by buying in the USA instead of the UK?
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Old 04-12-2011, 03:33   #5
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Re: EPIRB/PLB registration questions

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Just how much are you trying to save by buying in the USA instead of the UK?

Thats a valid point, you would need to check the cost involved in change of country registry (if applicable), it could out weigh the saving made by puchasing in the US

Quote from Fast Find website
Fast Find Personal Location Beacons (PLBs) should be purchased in your country of residence and must be registered with your national authority. Each Fast Find is programmed for a specific country and can only be registered in the country for which it has been programmed. However, if you were to purchase a Fast Find in a country other than the one in which you reside, you do have the option to have it reprogrammed to the country code of your country of residence but, this will of course involve additional cost. This can be discussed further with your supplier.
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Old 04-12-2011, 04:24   #6
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Re: EPIRB/PLB registration questions

Well, although my boat lives in Hamble and is UK flagged, I do not live in UK nor have an address there. I am a US citizen and have an address there which I can use (parents), although I don't actually live there either. If PLB registration is personal, and not to the ship, then I couldn't register a PLB in the UK even if I wanted to. My question was really just whether or not I had correctly understood the difference in the nature of PLB registration versus EPIRB registration.
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Old 04-12-2011, 04:44   #7
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Re: EPIRB/PLB registration questions

The unit is always registered to an individual no matter what type it is. With an EPIRB the form you fill out is a bit different in that it does list a vessel name as well. The PLB form does not have a place for that. The info they really want is the contact person and backup contacts such as relatives who will know where you are so they can confirm if there is a real emergency. Hope that helps
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Old 04-12-2011, 05:18   #8
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Uncle Sam will quite helpfully register your epirb or plb for free no matter where you live, alien or otherwise. Epirbs are not programmed with country codes until the dealer does it in the country you buy it. In the US they just use the hex code.

I know for a fact that I can get my ACR programmed irrespective of where I buy it. ( just tell them it came with the boat!). Cost about 30 monetary units.

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Old 04-12-2011, 05:57   #9
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Re: EPIRB/PLB registration questions

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Originally Posted by sailvayu View Post
The unit is always registered to an individual no matter what type it is. With an EPIRB the form you fill out is a bit different in that it does list a vessel name as well. The PLB form does not have a place for that. The info they really want is the contact person and backup contacts such as relatives who will know where you are so they can confirm if there is a real emergency. Hope that helps
Yes that is also my experience in Oz, you get to fill out different parts of the form depending if it an EPIRB, PLB or ELT but essentially the beacon is registered to you.

Sounds like you will be getting one in the USA
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Old 05-12-2011, 05:48   #10
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Re: EPIRB/PLB Registration Questions

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Here's my question - I believe from what I have read that EPIRBs are registered to the ship, and come programmed already with a country code programmed in, which could be a problem if you buy an EPIRB in the US for use on a UK flagged boat. A PLB, on the other hand, is registered to one's person, not to any ship. So no problem for a US citizen to buy in the US and use on his UK registered boat (or his dinghy, or on other people's boats, or even hiking in Siberia). Does any of you know offhand whether this understanding is correct?
In the USA, the emergency radio equipment is connected to the MMSI via the FCC as well as NOAA. This includes DSC VHF and SSBs, some Ebirps and Pbrirbs.
To register with NOAA:
https://beaconregistration.noaa.gov/rgdb/
To register with FCC (if you also need a radio license):
FCC: Wireless Services: Ship Radio Stations: Licensing
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