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Marine radio news for cruisers- 2005 Australia

More Marine Radio news for Cruisers

(c) 31st January 2005 D Kerr

In January we provided an in-depth summary of Australian radio options ("Cutting through the static"). This article highlighted a number of limitations of the current arrangements. Coincidentally, The Australian National Maritime Safety Committee ("ANMSC")  released the "Service Specification for the National Marine Distress and Safety Communications System for Domestic non-SOLAS vessels" ("NMDSC") on December 15th. Essentially, the document is intended as the guideline for States and Territories to ensure minimum standards and consistency across the country. The document does not appear to have been widely publicised and the three month public comment period will have expired by the time this issue of CH is available. Despite that, the document does cover some of the deficiencies highlighted in the CH article and, if implemented, will result in some improvements to safety for those using the facilities. That's the good news. The disappointing news is that there is no proposed change to the basic philosophy behind the Coast Radio Stations.

The specification continues to cover Coastal waters up to 200NM off the Australian Coast.

Public Survey
There was a public survey in December 2003/January 2004 but this does not appear to have reached the majority of yachties/cruisers. There was a poor response to the survey and, as expected, the majority of respondents never ventured more than 5NM offshore. They predominately used 27MHz and mobile phones. There were many suggestions, including mobile phone towers on islands, mandatory requirements for subsidised satellite communications, better weather information and others.

It was acknowledged by the ANMSC that the survey results were not fully National nor were they unbiased. In my view, few of the suggestions from the survey had relevance to cruisers.

There was a recognition that there are HF and VHF coverage gaps, particularly in the Northern Territory, Gulf of Carpenteria, North West Coast and the Great Australian Bight. By implication (but not by statement) there appears to be acknowledgement of inadequate equipment and operation standards in some locations.

Mobile phones and 27MHz were discounted.

AMSA will continue to monitor INMARSAT, HF-DSC and EPIRB alerts Nationally.

The current HF infrastructure will be strengthened.

Something should be done about VHF coverage. However there is a vagueness about how this might be achieved.

More specifically:

- Each HF Coast Radio Station will have a dedicated receiver for each emergency frequency. (Good).
- Improvements will be made to provide 99.5% equipment uptime. (Good).
- A minimum standard for HF antenna type (but nothing about electrically quiet locations).
- There is a recommendation for HF working frequencies (Good).
- Operators to be 100% available for distress monitoring on a 7x24hr basis & better trained. (Good)
- No land-based VHF DSC facilities will be provided. (Poor)
- There will be a single marine emergency phone number in each State accessible to satellite phones. (Good)
- Improvements should  be made to VHF coverage. (Good if something really happens).

The document may still be available on the internet at:

David Kerr

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