- Digital Selective Calling (DSC) and Radio Telephone (R/T) distress alerting. In zone A1 this can be achieved using a DSC VHF radio. Other zones require equipment that does not need line of sight to operate.
- Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) which emit a distress alert and enable the position of the device to be found. These function almost everywhere in the world. Personal Location Beacons (PLB) are smaller versions of EPIRBs for individual use. They differ in that they must be physically turned on – unlike EPIRBS which start automatically when they hit the water.
- Search and Rescue Transponder (SART). These are to enable rescuers to locate the casualty. They can be based on a radar transponder or an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmitter.
Going FrenchLast month’s article on distress flares referred to the French carriage requirements for safety equipment. With the Rear-Commodores spring cruise going to France this year, your correspondent has been asked what else is called for. As discussed last month it is not entirely clear whether the French douaniers expect visiting foreign boats to comply with these regulations. However, it is clear that the French authorities have the right to apply their own requirements if they choose. It is up to each skipper to make their own decision about whether and how they comply. The full details of the French regulations are available on the RYA website. The requirements are now divided into 4 groups depending on the distance from a safe haven. Crossing the Channel puts a boat in the Middle-water category (Between 6 and 60 miles from a safe haven) and the list below is for that. The Middle-water category is a new one created at the end of 2014 so these requirements may have changed from those you have seen before. They are:
- Individual CE or MED marked buoyancy aids of 150N or 100N for children up to 30kg.
- A waterproof flash light or individual signalling device with a battery life of at least 6 hours fastened to each individual buoyancy aid.
- Mobile fire-fighting equipment (for CE marked vessels follow the builders recommendations in the owner’s manual – otherwise see below)
- Manual bail-out equipment
- Towing equipment
- Anchor rope (if unladen mass> 250kg)
- Tide tables
- National flag (outside of territorial waters)
- Location and aid device for someone in the water
- 3 hand held red flares
- Magnetic compass
- Official marine charts (see Nautical Documents Leaflet)
- International rules for the prevention of collisions at sea
- Description of the buoyage system
- 3 parachute flares and 2 smoke flares or 1 fixed VHF radio
- Life raft
- Equipment for establishing positions
- Up to date record of lights/ flares (see Nautical Documents Leaflet)
- Ship’s log
- Equipment for receiving weather reports
- Harness and safety line per person aboard for sailing vessels (1 per vessel for non sailing)
- First aid kit in accordance with article 240-2, 16
- Light for searching and locating at night
- Fixed VHF radio mandatory as of 01/01/2017
- Inboard engine power<120kW – total capacity =34B operated by closable nozzle directed at the engine compartment
- Electric galley – total capacity = 5A/34B or fire blanket
- Stove with naked flame – total capacity = 8A/68B or 5A/34B + fire blanket located with 2m of each appliance and accessible if the appliance catches fire.
- Living area used for sleeping – total capacity = 5A/34B located within 5m of the middle of any bed
- Electrical installation over 50V AC- total capacity = 5A/34B dielectric
Paint Your BottomTwo points have been raised by members about antifouling: whether copper will follow TBT’s in being banned as an antifouling constituent and whether the authorities are trying to ban DIY application of antifouling. Many years ago small vessels in the UK and many other places worldwide had to stop using TBT anti fouling because of its effect on the marine ecosystem. In their place most small boat antifoulings were based on copper compounds with other things added. Copper by itself is apparently very effective against marine fauna but other biocides are necessary to deal with the plant life. Some of these biocides are also copper based compounds. The IMO Convention that finally banned TBT antifouling on ships included within it a procedure to ban other substances in future should the science show they were having a negative environmental effect. At the time (early 2000’s) there was some gossip that copper would be the next to be banned. In fact there has been little or no serious discussion on this at international level since, but even before the TBT ban there were some countries concerned about the effect copper was having in their waters. The Netherlands was particularly concerned about its inland waters and Sweden was concerned about the Baltic and some restrictions are in force in those areas. Denmark also restricts the leechage rate of copper in antifoulings. The general consensus, though, seems to be that copper from antifouling has little effect in the marine environment at large – the amount of copper released from antifouling into the sea is thought to be a small percentage of that washed in by land erosion. Though some concerns have been raised about local concentrations of copper in ports and harbours, especially where concentrated copper scrapings are allowed to enter the water. Your correspondent is not qualified to comment on the science but some States in the US are now introducing restrictions for leisure vessels, including Washington State and California, and others are looking at the issues. Their does not seem to be much pressure in Europe to follow suit at the moment which brings us neatly to the current work being undertaken by the European Chemicals Agency to ensure compliance with EU regulations concerning biocides. It appears that copper compounds are being accepted by the relevant committee following an assessment procedure that includes the environmental impact of their lifecycle use as antifoulings. However the British Coatings Federation has concerns about this process for another reason entirely. They are concerned that DIY application of approved antifoulings may nevertheless be forbidden on health and safety grounds. There are already on the HSE’s approved list of antifouling products a number that are restricted for professional use only – because of the active substance or the method of application. BCF undertook a survey of 2,500 boat owners at the end of last year and found that the great majority of them are well aware of the hazards involved in the application of antifouling paints and the BCF is preparing a strategy to defend their amateur use. From what your correspondent has seen the EU methodology of approval considers the health and safety aspects of both professional and amateur use. Copper pyrithione is one biocide that has been approved for only professional use, but that was also the case before the latest assessment. Others have been recommended for approval for amateur use as well. However, as the trade body it seems likely the BCF knows what it is talking about and there is a threat out there somewhere – maybe from UK “green plating” of EU regulations. Watch this space! Going back to the discussion of banning copper – what would the implications be if that happened? Apart from helping us go faster, antifouling has two effects that are good for the environment – they help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by creating a smoother hull and they help prevent the transport of invasive species from one ecosystem to another. To continue to get these benefits some means of keeping fouling off boats remains essential. There are other active substances that could be used, and in some cases already are. Many are zinc based and include substances used in dandruff shampoo, nappy rash cream and other domestic products. It is likely, though, that anything that is effective at killing marine organisms will eventually be questioned on environmental grounds. The commercial shipping industry is experimenting with non active antifoulings that work by have properties that prevent the fouling sticking on or encouraging them to slip off when the vessel is under way. Some of these are showing promising results. Commercial ships however spend much more time under way than leisure vessels. Following the discovery many years ago that warship sonar domes never fouled, a number of devices have been developed to use sonic vibrations on small vessels to mimic the effect. Some tests in a yachting magazine a number of years ago appeared to show that they are effective against many, but not all organisms. Your correspondent fitted one as a winter project two or three years ago. It is difficult to be sure from such a limited, unscientific trial, but it does seem to have had some effect. Raven will continue also to be antifouled though. Robert Spencer, Yacht Section Technical and Safety : January 2016
Are Flares Still Fashionable ?This article has grown out of a discussion amongst some members of the Yacht Section about whether to carry distress flares and replace them when they expire, or whether to consider modern alternatives. There are two common concerns about carrying pyrotechnic flares on pleasure boats. One is that they have a relatively short life – typically 3-4 years – after which they should be disposed of. In recent years the number of places they can be safely disposed of has reduced and many people have reported problems with disposal. However your correspondent found last time he replaced his flare that the vendor of the new flares was happy to accept the old ones for disposal. The regular cost remains an issue. The second concern is the possible dangers of carrying and using pyrotechnics on a small boat. Occasional accidents have been reported as a result of using flares and many comments on the dangers of using them focus on the lack of practice most boaters have with them and the probable difficulties reading and understanding the instructions in a distress situation. In days of yore we used to set off out date flares at bonfire events and thus get some practice. There is now an urban myth around that this is illegal. As far as your correspondent can tell, it is only an urban myth. The COLREGS and presumably the Merchant Shipping Acts forbid the use of distress signals on vessels where there is no distress. This doesn’t apply in back gardens or inland. It is reportedly illegal to take them to sports event under the Public Order Act, but no-one would advocate that as a suitable place to practice. The COLREGS prohibition applies to all distress signals, not just flares. If anyone tells your correspondent he cannot wave his arms up and down in the privacy of his own back garden he is likely to receive an Anglo-Saxon riposte. Please note your correspondent is not a legal expert and you should not rely on this column for your defence. He would also not advocate practicing with parachute flares as he has seen one still burning when it landed; or smoke signals unless one is well away from roads and other people/ animals; or any flares where the emergency services could interpret them as a distress signal, e.g. near the coast. The danger of carrying flares centres on their essential pyrotechnic properties. Some skippers are reluctant to add another explosive element to the cocktail of diesel, petrol, LPG and stored electricity that cruisers typically carry around in a space smaller than the average sitting room. The RYA has published more than one article questioning the value of flares, especially parachute flares, now that DSC alerting, EPIRBS and PLB’s are available. The RYA does recognise the value of hand held flares and smoke signals for “final mile” locating. In addition to the distress flares, white hand flares are sometimes carried as a means of illuminating sails in the darkness as a last resort method of drawing the attention of another vessel to the boats presence. This is not a recognised distress signal. COLREGS Annex IV lists 15 different recognised ways of signalling distress at sea. Flares form 2 of these methods, i.e,
- A rocket parachute flare or a hand flare showing a red light
- A smoke signal giving off orange-coloured smoke
What Are the Carriage RequirementsThe Statutory requirements for carrying safety and distress signalling equipment for UK registered pleasure vessels are contained in the MCA’s Marine Guidance Note MGN 538 This document makes clear that there are no carriage requirements for flares for vessels less than 13.7m in length. It states: Pleasure vessels less than 13.7 metres in length are not covered by any statutory requirements for the carriage of Firefighting Equipment or Life-Saving Appliances, however, the owner has a duty of care under health and safety legislation where people are employed on-board (see Section 6.4). Owners and skippers should refer to the RYA and British Marine for guidance of any safety equipment for their vessels. The situation is significantly different for vessels over 13.7m length. Here, for voyages more than three miles from the coast, they require three means of distress alerting, one of which must be via a suitable radio, one of which must be flares and one of which cannot be raising and lowering of arms. The mandatory flares must be 4 red hand fares and 2 orange smoke signals. The RYA Guidelines for Distress Alerting that MGN 538 refers to, base their recommendations on three sea areas
- Within 3 nautical miles of the coast
- Within the GMDSS Sea Area A1, which is the pink area shown on the attached map, in which continuous alerting by DSC is available via VHF
- Outside GMDSS Sea Area A1
- 4 Parachute flares
- 6 red hand flares
- 2 smoke signals
The Coast Guard department of the French Customs state one of their roles is to ensure “that users of boats and watercraft comply with the safety rules and regulations (rules for navigation, speed, safety equipment)”. The Directorate-General for Infrastructure, Transport and the Sea have published a set of requirements for pleasure vessels less than 24m in length, the translation of which is on the members section of the RYA website.It is reasonable to assume the Coast Guard will expect UK flagged vessels to be equipped similarly to French boats. The requirements for distress signalling equipment for vessels up to 60 nautical miles from a safe haven are:
- Three hand held red flares
- 1 fixed VHF radio OR 3 parachutes rocket s and 2 smoke flares
- Up to date record of lights/ flares