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seacor power capsized

A Coast Guard Station Grand Isle 45-foot Respone Boat-Medium boatcrew heads toward a capsized 175-foot lift boat Seacor Power, April 13, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Glenn Harris

NTSB Urges Use of Personal Locator Devices to Boost Safety for Mariners

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 4388
January 31, 2024

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a safety alert advising vessel owners and operators to equip each crewmember with a personal locator device to enhance their chances of rescue during emergencies.

Devices such as personal locator beacons or satellite emergency notification devices can greatly increase chances of survival in an emergency by accurately pinpointing a person’s location to concentrate rescue efforts. NTSB investigations found that currently available personal locator beacons provide a location accuracy of about 300 feet and a nearly instant search and rescue notification when activated.

The NTSB has investigated several incidents where such devices either could have or did aid in locating survivors.

The NTSB’s investigation into the 2015 sinking of the American cargo ship El Faro, which resulted in the loss of all 33 crewmembers, suggested that the use of Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) could have improved initial rescue efforts. Three days post sinking, searchers spotted one crewmember’s remains in an immersion suit but ultimately could not recover the victim. The NTSB recommended the U.S. Coast Guard require all personnel working on vessels in coastal, Great Lakes, and ocean services to be equipped with a personal locator beacon to enhance their chances of survival.

The NTSB reiterated the recommendation after investigating the 2019 sinking of the F/V Scandies Rose, which caused five casualties, and the 2020 loss of the F/V Emmy Rose, which resulted in four casualties. It again repeated the recommendation after the fatal capsizing of the liftboat Seacor Power in the Gulf of Mexico, which led to 13 deaths.

The NTSB’s Safety Alert advises vessel owners and operators to select the best type of personal locator device for their crew, ensure each crewmember carries one, and register each device with the appropriate organization.

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