MCA Introducing Mandatory EPIRB Regulations for Fishing Vessels

epirb-mca-header The Maritime & Coastguard Agency has released a new Merchant Shipping Notice which requires all Small Fishing Vessels to carry an EPIRB on-board for safety purposes. Although existing vessels have until 23 October 2019 to comply, new vessels must comply immediately. However, why wait? Take the opportunity to meet the requirements and enhance the safety precautions on your fishing vessel for all crew members, by ordering today.

MCA requirements:

  • Vessels of 10m and over - 1 EPIRB required (vessels operated single handedly may replace the EPIRB with a PLB, see more about the differences below)
  • Vessels of less than 10m - 1 EPIRB or PLB required
  • If you carry PLBs, an EPIRB should also be carried.
  • On the other hand, if you carry an EPIRB, you should consider providing each member of the crew with a PLB.

    What is an EPIRB?

    Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) are GPS satellite enabled safety device registered to and carried by a vessel. EPIRBs are designed to alert search and rescue services and allow them to quickly locate you in the event of an emergency. As the satellites are in a polar orbit they offer true global coverage – with an EPIRB you can summon help wherever you are on the planet, no matter how remote. EPIRB at sea

What is the difference between an EPIRB and a PLB?

EPIRBs and PLBs do a similar job. They both send your GPS co-ordinates to search and rescue services. However, PLBs are primarily designed to be used by individuals and so can be used either on land or at sea. The advantage of using an EPIRB at sea is that if you do initiate an SOS, the responding agencies will be able to see information on your vessel such as vessel type, tonnage, length, maximum number of persons on board etc. In an emergency, it is beneficial to all parties to know as much information as possible about the vessel in distress. A PLB SOS signal, unfortunately does not communicate any of this information. PLB at sea PLBs are available at a lower cost than EPIRBs. However, for the purpose of fulfilling the criteria on this code of practice, we recommend that an EPIRB is used. This means that the maximum information can be passed to the authorities in the event of an emergency.

Which devices meet the MCA requirements and how much do they cost?

We offer EPIRBs and PLBs from ACR, McMurdo and Ocean Signal which meet the requirements set out by the MCA. However, be sure to choose buoyant models to comply with the regulations. EPIRBs start from £280 ex VAT. The full range is available to view here. Also, there is no ongoing subscription cost to owning an EPIRB, in fact it simply needs to be registered online with MCA.

EPIRB Range:







PLBs start from £148 ex VAT. The full range is available to view here. Also, there is no ongoing subscription cost to owning an PLB, in fact it simply needs to be registered online with MCA.

PLB Range:

ACR PLB (800)




What else do I need to know?

The requirements listed above represent the minimum safety equipment requirements. Therefore owners should consider carrying additional safety equipment. Coastguard Operations Centres maintain a listening watch only on VHF Channel 16. The primary means of distress and urgency alerting should be via VHF DSC, also provided by GTC.

How do I find out more?

It is important to get your SOS equipment right, for any questions please contact our specialists for further advice.

Call: 01202 801290


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