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Old 20-10-2015, 06:17   #1
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Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

Hi,

last summer, in the Ionian sea in Greece, I lost my handheld VHF DSC radio. It fell off in the water while anchoring but unfortunately I did not realized it immediately and then, a few hours later, I berthed in a marina and went home.
The day after, I got a phone call at home from the Hellenic coast guard telling me that a distress call was received from my boat. They could not really tell me the location of the distress neither what type of distress (EPIRB? DSC?). Initially I thought it was the EPIRB maybe getting somehow wet and activated. In fact, I have a friend whose EPIRB activated inside the boat due to leaking rain water. So I contacted the SAR/SAT center to verify if they received a distress from my EPIRB and they said no.
I then checked immediately the boat and realized the missing handheld VHF. I reported that to the authorities, but I had no way to stop it.
The GMDSS procedure would require to send a cancel distress call on VHF, but I was not the one sending out the distress neither could receive it.
The next day, the coast guard received again a DSC distress call and this time they were able to pinpoint the location. They seized the handheld VHF to a kid who, apparently, was able to activate the distress button.
Even though I was not strictly responsible for the distress, they still asked me to pay a penalty before returning me the VHF radio for not having it reported immediately (How could I have done so if I was not aware of??).
Anyway, I think I will never program again my MMSI number in any handheld DSC VHF. The chance of loosing it or getting it stolen are too high, while traditional distress on channel 16 is still quite effective. Contrary to an EPIRB distress, which is received always by the country of registration SAR/SAT center, the DSC distress could be received by anyone, and there is no way to notify all the possible receivers of a lost or stolen VHF.
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Old 20-10-2015, 06:24   #2
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

Who asked for the fine/fee? Was it the Greek government?
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Old 20-10-2015, 08:21   #3
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

Yes, the Greek coastguard. To make it short, I paid.
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Old 20-10-2015, 09:38   #4
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

Very interesting. Got me thinking.

Phones can be locked with a code. Perhaps VHF handhelds should have such a function too?

b.
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Old 20-10-2015, 09:53   #5
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
Very interesting. Got me thinking.

Phones can be locked with a code. Perhaps VHF handhelds should have such a function too?

b.
Yeah, because in an emergency you want somebody to have to enter a security code before sending a distress signal.

Phones allow emergency calls, even when locked.

How much was the fine?
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Old 20-10-2015, 09:59   #6
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

Hmm, those who send illegal/false transmissions are the ones who are liable, but maybe the kid had no money so they went after you, especially given Greece's recent money woes. It's curious to know what other countries might have done in a similar situation. Despite this situation, I certainly have no plans in not including my MMSI in my handheld, which I keep attached to my PFD.
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Old 20-10-2015, 10:25   #7
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

Sounds like an absurd interpretation of the responsibilities of a radio operator.

You were not the operator so not in violation of any laws AFAIK.

The kid / parents would be in violation of misusing a transmitting device probably through unauthorized use of radio spectrum.



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Old 20-10-2015, 10:34   #8
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

You could look at it from another viewpoint.
Because the kid used the emergency function they were able to trace the VHF.
They spend some time getting it physically in their hands.
They then brought it back to you. Again time spend.
You only paid "finders compensation" for getting your VHF back.
No need to buy a new VHF handheld, much cheaper I presume.
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Old 20-10-2015, 10:35   #9
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

I could have disputed the fine, but in the meantime the boat could not move and I had to go back to my home port in Italy. Who knows for how long I'd be stuck there? I took a practical decision: the fine was €300, a bit more than the value of the VHF.
The local CG was obviously not willing to go after the kid and they told me they had pressure from the central coast guard office to levy a fine of some sort for the hassle they had.
Regarding the handheld VHF being attached to the life-vest, I sometimes use it when going ashore with the dinghy to communicate with the people on-board, and therefore cannot keep it permanently attached to the life-vest. I have a second VHF handheld in the grab bag for emergency purposes.

P.S.: It happened in July, with all the banks shut-down and the Greek government scrambling to get a bail out from EU. The clerk of the tax collection office where I had to pay the fine said it was the first time she had to process a CG fine.
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Old 20-10-2015, 10:46   #10
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

"Phones can be locked with a code. Perhaps VHF handhelds should have such a function too? [b.]
Yeah, because in an emergency you want somebody to have to enter a security code before sending a distress signal."
Actually, "public service" radios, the land mobile handhelds used by police, fire, and other safety agencies in the US, commonly have "stun" and "kill" codes, where a dispatcher can send a code that will shut down any particular radio they specify. This is somewhat proprietary for each different brand and model, but the same concept could work for VHF's or cell phones. Those radios make spanking new top-end iPhones seem outright cheap though.
And actually, cell phones can be shut down remotely as well. The carrier just has to put an "ignore" code in their computer system, and that phone will never see service again.
Of course, that would just mean that if the owner could remotely transmit a code (or request some agency do it) then "hackers" would eventually start shutting down VHF radios as well.
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Old 20-10-2015, 10:50   #11
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

That 'fine' probably went directly into the pocket of the coast guard guy, and stayed there. Did you get a receipt??
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Old 20-10-2015, 11:07   #12
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

@donradcliffe
No, I paid the fine properly at the tax collection office. All paperwork was officially stamped.
Before agreeing to pay the fine, I called a representative of the Italian consulate, who then called the CG post chief (they knew each-other), and said to pay a minimum fine and let it go. I was fined for improper custody of the VHF, not for the false distress.

I think it would be really useful if there were ways of suppressing a DSC distress from a given MMSI.
The EPIRB allows that, you have to notify only the SAR/SAT agency of your country.
A false DSC distress in the Ionian or Adriatic sea could potentially be received by up to 4-5 country CGs and dozens of vessels. No way to stop it.
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Old 20-10-2015, 11:50   #13
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

I believe the key piece of info is that it was an Italian flagged vessel in Greek waters.


Sent from my iPhone- please forgive autocorrect errors.
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Old 21-10-2015, 06:33   #14
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
Yeah, because in an emergency you want somebody to have to enter a security code before sending a distress signal.

Phones allow emergency calls, even when locked.

How much was the fine?
Doh. You are right.

How much does the police fine us for someone else using our stolen phone to make an emergency call?

Maybe those Greek authorities a bit over reacted the situation. I am sure many other authorities would too.

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Old 21-10-2015, 09:30   #15
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Re: Lost handheld VHF radio with DSC

Quote:
Originally Posted by bikesherpa View Post
Yes, the Greek coastguard. To make it short, I paid.
and because of this you say that "will never program again my MMSI number in any handheld DSC VHF."
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