Mandatory float-free EPIRBs

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

Float-free EPIRBS offer significant safety advantages for crew and passengers on sinking vessels or which rapidly capsize.

A float-free EPIRB is a water-activated EPIRB fitted in a float-free bracket. It can activate itself and float free to the water’s surface. It activates when a vessel capsizes to a depth of 1 to 4 metres underwater. A float-free EPIRB can also be manually removed from its bracket and manually activated without it being submerged in water.

We conducted extensive public consultation about float-free EPIRBs in 2018. As a result we are making changes to the National Standard for Commercial Vessels (NSCV) from 1 January 2019.

A two-year transition period applies— from 1 January 2021 the new requirements for float-free EPIRBs will become mandatory for certain types of domestic commercial vessels.

Types of vessels

From 1 January 2021 it will be mandatory for the following domestic commercial vessels to carry a float-free EPIRB. Read more about vessel service classes and operating areas.

Vessels needing a mandatory float-free EPIRB from 1 January 2021

Vessel type

Vessel length and flotation

Operating area

Is a float-free EPIRB mandatory or not?

All class 1—Passenger vessels (13 or more passengers)

All class 2—Non-passenger vessels (up to 12 passengers)

All class 3—Fishing vessels

Equal to or greater than 12 metres.

Beyond 2 nautical miles seaward from land.

You must carry a mandatory float-free EPIRB from 1 January 2021.

Less than 12 metres, and does not have level flotation.

Offshore waters (B waters) or

Restricted offshore (C waters).

B waters: offshore operations (within 200 nautical miles from the baseline of the Australian mainland, Tasmania, a recognised island but within the exclusive economic zone).

C waters: Restricted offshore operations (within 30 nautical miles from the baseline of the Australian mainland, Tasmania, a recognised island; within 50 nautical miles of the baseline of Queensland, within the Great Barrier Reef Region or the Torres Strait Zone; whilst remaining within the exclusive economic zone).

You must carry a mandatory float-free EPIRB from 1 January 2021.

Less than 12 metres with level flotation.

Between 2 nautical miles out to C waters.

Not mandatory. You can continue carrying the type of EPIRB currently required.

Less than 7.5 metres.

Offshore waters (B waters) or

Restricted offshore (C waters).

B waters: offshore operations (within 200 nautical miles from the baseline of the Australian mainland, Tasmania, a recognised island but within the exclusive economic zone).

C waters: Restricted offshore operations (within 30 nautical miles from the baseline of the Australian mainland, Tasmania, a recognised island; within 50 nautical miles of the baseline of Qld, within the Great Barrier Reef Region or the Torres Strait Zone; whilst remaining within the exclusive economic zone).

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 with level flotation operating in offshore waters (B and C waters). This will be in consultation with industry.

Class 4— Hire and drive vessels used by the hirer only for recreational purposes

Equal to or greater than 12 metres.

Restricted offshore (C waters).

You must carry a mandatory float-free EPIRB from 1 January 2021.

Less than 12 metres, and does not have level flotation.

Smooth and partially smooth waters (D and E waters).

You must carry a mandatory float-free EPIRB from 1 January 2021.

Less than 12 metres in length with level flotation.

Smooth and partially smooth waters (D and E waters).

Not mandatory. You can continue carrying the type of EPIRB currently required.

Coastal life rafts

 

 

Not mandatory. You can continue carrying the type of EPIRB currently required.

Vessels that are affected

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 not affected

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.

Distress signals from float-free EPIRBs

Float-free EPIRBs are buoyant and float to the surface of the water with the aerial pointing vertically and transmitting a distress signal.

They are detected in the same way all distress beacons are detected, using the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system. Read more about how distress beacons are detected.

Video—mandatory float-free EPIRBs

View or download our video on Mandatory float-free EPIRBs.

Related information

Last updated: 

Friday 27 July 2018