Be prepared before your trip. Stay safe at sea.

When venturing out on the water, it is essential that you are properly prepared for all possible situations including emergencies.

Important safety tips for marine based activities

We encourage you to be well prepared with the correct safety equipment before heading out onto the water.

Going out to drop a line, go for a joy ride or seek an adventure, it is important that you do your research to make sure you and the people on board are going to be safe and well prepared for all possible emergency situations. This may include:

  • checking the weather conditions. Understand how the weather affects the conditions of the ocean is important. If the weather isn’t looking great, reschedule the boating trip for better conditions. Find more information on weather warning and the Bureau of Meteorology.
  • carrying safety equipment suitable for all possible emergency situations. Check carriage requirements with your local marine safety agency to ensure you are compliant.
  • carrying reliable means of verbal communication. This may include a marine radio. Do not rely on your mobile phone as your only means of communication on the water.
  • letting your emergency contact know of your trip plans and details, including your approximate time of arrival. A family member or friend will be able to alert search and rescue (SAR) authorities if you have not returned home safely by the specified time. Don’t forget to contact your emergency contact once you have returned safely.
  • carrying a registered GPS distress beacon. In some cases it is the law.
Distress beacons

There are two types of distress beacons that can be used on the water.

Emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB)

EPIRBs are designed specifically to be used in the marine environment. In most states, EPIRBs are required for boats that travel more than two nautical miles from the coast.

Personal locating beacon (PLB)

PLBs are smaller and easier to transport than other beacons and are designed to be worn or carried by individuals on your body. In some cases, PLBs do not meet carriage requirements for maritime vessels travelling more than two nautical miles from the coast but can be carried in addition to an EPIRB.

We recommend that you research the carriage requirements of your vessel to ensure you are compliant with the legal requirements.

How to prepare your beacon before heading out on the water

Register your beacon

We have recently improved the online beacon registration system to make it more mobile-friendly and accessible for registering and updating your beacon information from your mobile, tablet, or laptop.

Save your proof of registration

When required by law, providing proof of registration is easy. The four options are:

  1. SMS—save your SMS registration confirmation on your mobile phone.
  2. Email—save your confirmation email on your mobile phone or tablet.
  3. Print—print your registration confirmation or if you have no email, request a printed copy to be sent via mail.
  4. Online—check your beacon registration status online.

If you have an existing beacon registration sticker it will remain valid until it expires.

Update your registration details

Make sure your details are up to date in your online beacon registration account. This includes your contact details and emergency contacts. You can also upload details about your trip plans and photos of your vessel to help us identify you in an emergency.

Check your battery expiry date

Regularly check your battery expiry date and test your beacon as per the manufacturer instructions. Even if the light operates when you are testing your beacon after the battery expiry date, this does not guarantee your beacon will work correctly in a distress situation. Make sure you service and replace the battery before it expires.

Being a responsible beacon owner

Store your beacon correctly

With great power, comes great responsibility so it is important you look after your beacon to ensure it looks after you when needed most. This includes ensuring the beacon is stowed correctly and in a safe area away from anything or anyone that may cause it to accidentally activate. Read our beacon storage tips.

If you have accidentally activated your beacon call us immediately on 1800 641 792. There is no penalty for inadvertent beacon activation.

Dispose responsibly

Another aspect of looking after your beacon, is ensuring that it is disposed of responsibly.

Australia’s SAR system commits many hours and valuable resources searching for unwanted beacons in rubbish tips. This diverts important SAR resources away from real distress situations. So please, don’t bin your beacon!

If you choose to replace your beacon, ensure that you dispose of it responsibly. Read more about beacon disposal options.

Don’t use your expired beacon as a backup

Beacon owners should not use their old expired beacons as backups. This has proven to be confusing in distress situations when there are only seconds to react.

Don’t put the lives of those on board at risk by using an expired beacon as a backup.

Service your beacon

If you have used your beacon in a distress situation, ensure that you have your beacon serviced by a certified servicing agent.

Find out who is authorised to service your beacon in Australia.

Last updated: 9 November 2020