NTSB Urges Use of Personal Locator Devices for All Crewmembers

An emergency position-indicating radio beacon, or EPIRB. Image: Ocean Signal.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)officials are urging vessel owners and operators to provide crewmembers with personal locator devices, to supplement emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) to improve their chances of rescue in emergencies at sea.

Guidelines call for the owners and operators to determine the best type of personal locator device for their crew, to be sure that crewmembers carry them, to register these devices with the appropriate organization, and make sure crewmembers are aware of capabilities and limitations of these devices.

NTSB noted in the memo, which was released at the end of 2023, that the equipment does not provide the precise location of all individuals who may be in the water and drifting away from the vessel’s EPIRB position.

Use of the devices is not currently mandated.

The NTSB also noted that in investigations of casualties in which crewmembers had to abandon a vessel without a means to communicate their individual locations to search and rescue assets found that currently available PLBs (personal locator beacons) provide a location accuracy of about 300 feet and nearly instant search and rescue notification when activated.