Dory vessels: when to use a beacon

Distress beacons help save lives every day, but there’s a quicker way for dories to call for help.
28 November 2019

EPIRBs should only be used when a vessel is in genuine distress, as it results in an immediate search and rescue operation. 

If a vessel breaks down, it’s faster to call someone nearby than to wait for a rescue service, so make sure you equip dories with a marine radio, mobile or satellite phone. 

If you own or operate a dory, it’s your responsibility to ensure the safety of your crew at all times. 

Dories without phones or radios put lives at risk and can lead to unnecessary search and rescue responses. 

In a distress situation, use a phone or radio first to alert the parent vessel or marine rescue.

If neither are available, or there isn’t time, activate a beacon. 

That way our search and rescue services are available for life-threatening emergencies. 

Keeping crew safe at sea 

Equipping crew with the right safety equipment is part of the national law and includes making sure your crew can call for help when they need it.

The best way to maintain contact with the parent vessel is with a phone or radio and visual contact. 

So if a dory breaks down or there’s an emergency, the crew can quickly call for help from someone close by. 

In a genuine emergency, a radio or phone will also help rescuers communicate with the crew and find out the vessel’s position, nature of distress, number of people on board, and type of assistance needed. 

Using a beacon 

Ensure all beacons are registered and the details are up to date – online registration is easy and you can update your registration details anytime. 

EPIRBs should only be used when a vessel is in genuine distress, as it results in an immediate search and rescue operation. 

Make sure the beacon is stored in a safe, dry place so it can’t be set off accidentally. 

Register your beacon at:

If a beacon is activated accidentally, switch it off and call the AMSA Response Centre on 1800 641 792. There is no penalty for accidental activation.


Australian Maritime Safety Authority
Last updated: 3 September 2020