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Old 17-11-2019, 03:13   #1
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Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

This may seem to be a frequently asked question, but mine has a little twist, and I havenít been able to find the answer after searching.

Iím in New Caledonia, purchasing a Swiss flagged boat. Expected close is 22nd. The boat is leaving to be delivered back to states by a delivery crew just a few days later, probably before the 1st, so we have max of 8 days to handle MMSI issues.

How should I handle this? I will have Bill of sale in hand on the 22nd, but donít expect a deletion certificate to deregister the Swiss boat for weeks. Without deletion certificate, canít register with USCG, so my new boat and delivery crew will be on their way before paperwork is completed.

Does anyone have suggestions for how to deal with this situation? I donít feel I will be able to have a new MMSI number in time, and I doubt there is a place on this island that can program the epirb anyway. VHF and AIS might be possible, if I had a number, which I doubt. But I believe the epirb must be changed by the manufacturer.

Is the MMSI deactivated as soon as the Swiss deregistration happens? That is likely to happen while my boat is at sea. Can I go on and just keep the existing MMSI for this delivery and change when I get back to the USA? That would be my inclination, but I can say with confidence that the stereotypically Swiss-German seller will not bend any rules. So whatever happens must be ďproperď.

Advice would be appreciated!
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Old 17-11-2019, 17:45   #2
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

EPIRB does NOT use MMSI

The AIS and DSC will still work with the old MMSI.

Deactivating an MMSI means there will be no contact information associated with it but it will still show your vessel data on AIS and DSC.

Believe it or not a whole lot of boats have traveled many miles with no MMSI at all.
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Old 17-11-2019, 17:49   #3
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

EPIRBs in Europe (and maybe other countries Im not aware of) DO use MMSI. As far as I know the non-mmsi EPIRB is mostly a US thing.

The important thing here is being able to have contact information with the EPIRB that's linked to someone who knows what the hell route and plans that sailboat has. That's the only important thing.

You could de-register the EPIRB with Swiss authorities, register with US authorities through NOAA

https://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/beacon.html

And put in all the proper information. AIS, boat reg, etc, could stay Swiss until the boat arrives to the US. You should check with US Borders and Customs how to go about the import (if any) would be due (generally no more than 2% I believe of total bill of sale value), can you first enter it to the US as a cruising permit and then do all the paper changes, etc? US Customs and Border should be the ones to answer this.
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EPIRB does NOT use MMSI
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Old 17-11-2019, 19:16   #4
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

We went through exactly this scenario, down to the boat we bought being Swiss registered at the time we bought her.

A Swiss EPIRB is indeed coded with the Swiss MMSI. And you can't register that EPIRB with NOAA because the NOAA database will tell you to register in the proper country. You (like we did) have a couple of options:
  1. Try to register in the international database https://www.406registration.com/ - Switzerland uses the international database. But, if the previous owner has it registered there you'll need their help.
  2. Get the help of the current owner - ask them to change the contact information for the short term
  3. Buy a new EPIRB and register it - if you just buy a US based EPIRB you can register it right away. In the end this was easiest for us, the boat came with a GME EPIRB that in the end couldn't be coded for US because it is not US type approved.
  4. Just go with it the way it is - this is definitely not preferred, but if you set off the EPIRB it should get a response, just not as accurate or quick.

For the VHF/AIS/DSC there's really not much of an issue. Yes, the MMSI will not be "correct", but they can still be used and you can take care of them at your leisure. As long as they all match the AIS will broadcast, and if anyone wants to use DSC to call you based on that they can. My advice (from experience), don't change one until you can change them all. We had a pretty long interval between AIS and VHF, at least the AIS would tell us when someone was calling us DSC.

One more thing, the VHF on our European boat did not have a "US/Intl" switch. I was surprised, but it's an Icom M504 and they sell several flavors. With the exception of Great Britain the version generally sold in Europe does not have the US/Intl switch and thus you will not be able use the US specific channels/frequencies (in particular the duplex channels favored by the USCG). Sadly I didn't find this out until we got back to the US and the Coasties asked me to switch to 22A
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Old 18-11-2019, 00:16   #5
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

Thanks for the helpful answers. Particularly dsanduril, that post was pure gold.
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Old 18-11-2019, 06:26   #6
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

Just for clarity, Epribs do not use or have MMSI numbers. They have a 15 digit hex ID number (UIN). MMSI numbers are used for DSC radios and AIS, but not Epribs.
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Old 18-11-2019, 07:49   #7
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
Just for clarity, Epribs do not use or have MMSI numbers. They have a 15 digit hex ID number (UIN). MMSI numbers are used for DSC radios and AIS, but not Epribs.
Yes, technically. But how many times do we have to have this discussion? Many countries REQUIRE that the HexID be coded as the MMSI. And that is done by the vendor at the time of sale. And if the EPIRB is transferred it has to be re-coded by someone with the right software.

Use of the MMSI prevents unregistered beacons (a problem in the US) - to get an MMSI you have to provide a fair amount of detail about the vessel up front. Even the US supports/allows use of a US MMSI as the beacon HexID, most people simply don't use it.

It is also acceptable under the EPIRB standards to code the HexID with the ship's radio call sign - another vessel specific and instantly recognizable value. This also gets around the random HexID that may not get registered.

With an MMSI/call sign HexID the recipient COSPAS/SAR authority automatically knows the flag country of the vessel and where to start inquiries. With a random HexID they actually have to search multiple databases.
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Old 18-11-2019, 10:52   #8
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
Just for clarity, Epribs do not use or have MMSI numbers. They have a 15 digit hex ID number (UIN). MMSI numbers are used for DSC radios and AIS, but not Epribs.
This is correct ONLY for EPIRBS used in the USA.
Europeans EPIRBS do use MMSI.
The Swiss registered unit, to be used under USA system (i.e. registered in NOAA, instead of the international COSPAS/SARSAT database) MUST be reprogrammed by someone who has access to the specific unit manufacturers software.
If the unit is old, it may be worthwile to also check if the battery is user replacable. If it is not (it is costly procedure at the unit reps.) I would suggest to buy a new unit, programmed for the USA market. As a.m. such a unit would not need an MMSI.
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Old 18-11-2019, 11:25   #9
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

And for even more clarity, even a random, manufacturer assigned Hex ID contains a country code. You can find details on how the HexID is coded here and here.

If you buy a vessel that is foreign (to you) flagged it likely to have an EPIRB that is coded to the flag country regardless of whether or not it uses the MMSI as the coding (the first three digits of an MMSI are the country code and EPIRB/MMSI use the same country code system/list). You cannot register a beacon with one country's code in another country's database. For US users:

Quote:
Important: NOAA's beacon registration database only accepts registration applications to include the country codes of: Alaska (303), Hawaii (338), Puerto Rico (358), US Virgin Islands (379), Northern Marianas Islands (536), American Samoa (559), and the contiguous United States (366, 367, 368, & 369). If you do not have a beacon coded for these areas you cannot register your beacon with NOAA. Contact your beacon manufacturer to see where to register your beacon if you own a non-U.S.A. coded beacon. You may also find information for registering non-U.S.A. coded beacon on the Cospas-Sarsat website.

Source:
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Old 18-11-2019, 15:45   #10
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

The country code determines who will take the lead on SAR. If you have a Swiss number, the Swiss will be contacted and they will be responsible for running the operation and locating the contacts. While that will work it is probably preferable to have NOAA running the show for a US boat.

If the unit is getting on in years (say 5-10 years old) then buy a new US one. It is not a simple job of replacing a battery: the EPIRB has to be tested for function with specialized equipment, and costs hundreds of dollars to accomplish (not to mention shipping as HazMat because of the Li-ion battery). Perhaps this is no longer the case, but my experiences in the past were painful. Oddly, the manufacturers look at service as a profit center...

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Old 18-11-2019, 16:24   #11
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

Sounds like the purchase is moving ahead. I would be more concerned with the zarpe and checking into any countries the delivery crew does. If you can't re-register the boat, you should get a notarized letter from the previous owner giving the crew permission to deliver it. That and the Swiss might work better than waving the bill of sale.
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Old 18-11-2019, 23:28   #12
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CarinaPDX View Post
The country code determines who will take the lead on SAR. If you have a Swiss number, the Swiss will be contacted and they will be responsible for running the operation and locating the contacts. While that will work it is probably preferable to have NOAA running the show for a US boat.

If the unit is getting on in years (say 5-10 years old) then buy a new US one. It is not a simple job of replacing a battery: the EPIRB has to be tested for function with specialized equipment, and costs hundreds of dollars to accomplish (not to mention shipping as HazMat because of the Li-ion battery). Perhaps this is no longer the case, but my experiences in the past were painful. Oddly, the manufacturers look at service as a profit center...

Greg
Mostly correct (I have written similar points), except I believe that the EPIRB's battery is not HazMat and is allowed freely aboard flights. I flew with EPIRB more than once without any problems.
I remember this point being stated on EPIRBs sales brochures.
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Old 19-11-2019, 00:41   #13
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

It may be country dependent or carrier dependent, but possibly just that times have changed. I remember the first time I had the battery changed and tested I was told to open and remove the battery before shipping in order to avoid the HazMat handling, but paid for that on return with the lithium battery. That was in the U.K. in 1997.

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Old 19-11-2019, 00:57   #14
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

The battery is certified until 2022, so I’d like to keep this unit if possible.

Regarding Zarpe, I think we are in good shape. We went into customs today filed a request to transfer boat, she stamped it on the spot, said to come back anytime we wanted with Bill of sale and passports. Said we would be all set, and it would reset the clock for the boat for how long it could stay in country. I’m hopeful that harbormaster and immigration will be no more trouble.
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Old 19-11-2019, 02:27   #15
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Re: Purchase foreign boat, MMSI change?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
Just for clarity, Epribs do not use or have MMSI numbers. They have a 15 digit hex ID number (UIN). MMSI numbers are used for DSC radios and AIS, but not Epribs.
Different countries have different requirements, check the below Swiss documentation....

https://www.bakom.admin.ch/bakom/en/...unication.html

https://www.bakom.admin.ch/dam/bakom...aconsepirb.pdf

From the attached pdf doc......

Quote:
The signals transmitted by an EPIRB which are received by the COSPAS/SARSAT satellites are relayed
via a Local User Terminal (LUT) and Mission Control Centre (MCC) to the competent Maritime Rescue
Coordination Centre (MRCC) nearest to the distress position.

The alert essentially contains only the MMSI number which is programmed into the EPIRB and the
distress position. No other indications are available to the MRCC in an alert report.
Quote:
Process of registering an EPIRB by the owner / keeper

In accordance with the decision of the Swiss Maritime Navigation Office (SSA) in Basel, owners of
EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) must register these emergency radio beacons
in the IBRD (International 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database) under their own responsibility.

The MMSI number allocated by OFCOM must be programmed into the EPIRB
.......also, my float-free EPIRB has been programed with my MMSI, it's optional here in Aus......

Scroll down to "Programming" in the below link.....

https://beacons.amsa.gov.au/about/float-free-epirbs.asp

Quote:
Programming

When you buy a float-free EPIRB, you will be asked how you wish to program it. There are three options:

Option 1 – Manufacturers serial number
Option 2 – Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) of vessel
Option 3 – Radio callsign of vessel (registered with Australian Communications and Media Authority

Option 1 is most often recommended as it is the most flexible programming method and enables a faster purchase process. It also allows the EPIRB to be repositioned onto another vessel without reprogramming—just remember to update the EPIRB registration.

Option 2 and 3 are the most common methods of programming for SOLAS flagged vessels. MMSI and Radio callsign programming is customised coding and may delay the purchase and delivery process.

Option 3 is the MMSI or Radio callsign program. If you use this, all EPIRBs on board using this program should be programmed with the same identification so you should advise the supplier/retailer if you have other EPIRBs on board.

The EPIRB HEX ID will be unique for each beacon as they can specify the unit number (eg 0, 1, 2) in the coding.

If the EPIRB is programmed using this method the EPIRB cannot be repositioned on another vessel unless it is reprogrammed with the new vessel’s MMSI or Radio callsign.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf information_distressbeaconsepirb (1).pdf (302.4 KB, 4 views)
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