EPIRB issue update

May 28, 2008 in L'histoire de Sean Seamour II, Sean Seamour II log of events

To all concerned by potentially faulty EPIRBS and
registration in participating COSPAS SARSAT countries

Although I have sought to inform the mariner community
worldwide to check their EPIRBs by posting in various forums my near death
experience due to an EPIRB that did not, and that could not fulfill its
function, this alert seems to have gone somewhat unnoticed until gCaptain .com
and Robin Storm focused their attention on the issue. All of a sudden there has
been uproar of naysayers, and I have had to post a response on the blog of one
such. As the fever seems to be spreading I shall repost part of that response
with some amplification.

I hope you are enjoying your pissing match; it is quite
shocking to watch the real issue of dependability of EPIRBs smothered in such a
shouting match. Whether all the examples of Robin Storm are correct or not, the
fact is there are such cases. I have to remind those that perhaps have not
thought the process through that the most likely outcome of a faulty EPIRB in
critical conditions is a new “lost at sea” entry to a log already too long.
Those cases will never be investigated – without a backup EPIRB Sean Seamour’
crew would be among those lost.

Compounding the issue of the EPIRB malfunction is the fact that it came back
from recertification a week prior to the events.

Further compounding the issue: the hexadecimal code belonged to another boat.

Upon launch of my EPIRB the Coast Guard investigated the database info and
contacted the owner, deducted after battery disconnect a faulty EPIRB on that
other vessel and dropped pursuit of that signal, hence abandoned search and
rescue for my vessel and crew.

This was justified as at about this same time my EPIRB ceased to function,
condemning us to our predicament, if the signal had persisted there is no doubt they would have continued their search and rescue efforts. Had it not been for an eleven year old unit
we thought lost when the rogue wave sheared and sank the hard dodger to which
it was affixed in its cradle we would not be here to relate what happened.

A few days after the rescue, my crew safely home, I contacted ACR – they were
more than expecting my call, informing me “this has happened before”, fingering
responsibility elsewhere, anxious to get their hands on my GPIRB. With ten
broken ribs and two back compressions I was not about to run from Cape Cod to
Fort Lauderdale for a postmortem, especially with alarm bells ringing in my
head as they were. I told them I would get back to them and may still.
Surprisingly, never once has ACR sought to make contact of any sort, yet they
have been very attentive to my activities over the past year, blocking some of
my initiatives.

It is wrong for the manufacturer to ensure the postmortem
of a failed unit, their objectivity will always be questioned, all the more as this opportunity is rare, the unit is usually
lost, sometimes with the crew who cannot relate what did and did not happen. My
efforts to have an independent party do the postmortem were blocked.

Regardless of one’ opinion on the issue may I say that discussion on and
investigation of the issue is of critical importance to the mariner community
at large. That there is NO doubt these problems exist and need to be addressed
through policy and procedural changes, neither swept nor lobbied under the
carpet. I will close by saying that I will buy another EPIRB, likely a unit
manufactured by ACR, under their brand or another they build for.


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