MARIGOT–French-side sea rescue service SNSM is calling on all mariners to cancel the registration of their Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon (EPIRB) if their vessel has sunk or is no longer in a navigable state (declared wreckage).
The cancellation should be done with the Agence Nationale des Fréquences (ANFR). Vessel owners with EPIRB in St. Martin waters are also asked to transmit the following information to the SNSM station in St. Martin, e-mail
email@example.com : name and telephone number of vessel owner, name of vessel, flag state of vessel, number Unique Identifier Number (UIN)/Hex ID of EPIRB, current condition of the vessel and its beacon (dry, in service, repaired, sunk, disappeared et cetera) and any other useful information. This is to compile an updated list of the EPIRBs of local vessels.
Regarding life rafts, if the vessel’s life raft has disappeared with the hurricanes, or has been sunk, stolen, damaged, or otherwise, please report it by e-mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org , mentioning brand and serial number. This information will be entered into a database of stolen rafts or reconditioned ones (all brands).
SNSM added many pyrotechnic materials for vessels had been looted or lost during Hurricane Irma and there have been several deployments since of red distress flares over the ground “for fun” in areas such as Concordia, Friars Bay, Cul-de-Sac, and Grand Case. These materials are extremely dangerous if not handled properly. They are not made to be used ashore, and risk causing a fire when not ending up in the water.
SNSM noted since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the station’s volunteers have been called out more than a dozen times for EPIRB distress beacon emergencies but every time it was a false alarm.
“Our volunteer crew members leave their home or place of work immediately, reporting for duty every time. It is never an option to disregard the beacon as a sailor can be in real danger.”
When an EPIRB is activated (manual or automatic depending on the model), the beacon emits an identification signal to the satellite (frequency 406 MHZ) codified (Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) of the vessel) which the satellite receives and pre-processes before transmitting it to the ground to Centre Régionaux Opérationels de Surveillance et de Sauvetage (CROSS), or similar centres, which forwards the alert, depending on the position of the vessel, to the nearest rescue station which dispatches its lifeboat and crew and other means.
The coverage is global (24 hours a day/seven days a week) and accuracy of location is in the range of 1 to 3000 metres for a beacon not equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) or tens of metres if GPS is provided.
The activation time of the operation is less than 20 minutes if the beacon is equipped with a GPS. The MMSI code makes it possible to know immediately the identity of the vessel. This code is assigned by ANFR and is the same as that of the very-high-frequency digital selective calling VHF ASN.