Transition to mandatory float-free EPIRBs

Thursday 26 July 2018
From 1 January 2021, float-free emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) will be mandatory on certain types of domestic commercial vessels.
Float-free EPIRB

For updated information about mandatory float free EPIRBs please see our latest information.

This change to safety equipment requirements comes after a number of incidents in Australia and internationally where commercial vessels have sunk quickly and the master and crew were not able to deploy their EPIRB in time, resulting in a tragic loss of life.

AMSA conducted extensive public consultation about changes to requirements for carrying float-free EPIRBs in 2018. As a result we are making changes to the National Standard for Commercial Vessels (NSCV) from 1 January 2019, with a two-year transition period.

From 1 January 2021 it will be mandatory for the following domestic commercial vessels to carry a float-free EPIRB:

  • all fishing, passenger, and non-passenger domestic commercial vessels (Class 1, 2, and 3) that are:
    • equal to or greater than 12 metres in length and operate beyond 2 nautical miles seaward from land
    • less than 12 metres in length operating in restricted offshore and offshore waters (B or C waters) and do not have level flotation, and
  • all hire and drive vessels operating in restricted offshore waters (Class 4C) equal to or greater than 12 metres in length, or less than 12 metres and do not have level flotation.

These changes apply to new vessels, existing vessels, and transitional vessels. It also applies to vessels that are exempt from the requirement to have a certificate of survey (also referred to as ‘non-survey’ vessels). This includes vessels operating under the following exemptions:

Vessels without level flotation that are less than 12 metres in length and operating in D and E waters will not be affected by the changes. Similarly, all vessels that are less than 12 metres with level flotation can continue to carry the kind of EPIRB currently required regardless of where they operate.

The change does not affect coastal life rafts.

During the transition period AMSA will consider putting in place a generic equivalent solution (GES) to provide alternative options for owners of less than 7.5 metres without level flotation operating in offshore waters (B and C waters). This will be in consultation with industry.*

Float-free EPIRBs offer significant safety advantages for crew and passengers on sinking vessels. While float-free EPIRBs are an important lifesaving device, they should be one of several crucial pieces of equipment that improve safety at sea.

* NOTE: The advice provided here about generic equivalent solution has changed and will not be implemented. See our update to information about mandatory float-free EPIRBs.

Video—mandatory float-free EPIRBs

View our video on mandatory float-free EPIRBs.