Mandatory floating beacons possible

16:00, Mar 17 2014

Maritime New Zealand is considering making float-free beacons compulsory on fishing boats in the wake of two tragedies in Southland waters.

Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar's formal written findings into the deaths of four people on board the K-Cee and Governor will be considered as part of a Maritime New Zealand rule review.

The findings relate to the deaths of K-Cee skipper Bruce Gordon, 42, and crewman Darren Allen, 37, after the crayfishing boat was wrecked in Fiordland in April 2012; and Governor skipper Kevin Cosgrove, 60, and crewman Nirvana Reynolds, 16, following the capsize of the boat in September 2012.

Crerar made several recommendations in his written findings, all of which Maritime New Zealand is considering. These include that float-free beacons be compulsory on fishing boats.

Bluff-based Fisherman's Shore Station marine radio operator Meri Leask backed the coroner's call. Float-free beacons and life jackets should be made compulsory on all vessels as a back-up to the system they already had in place, she said.

"We need everything that can assist us in finding you [if there's an emergency]," she said


Maritime New Zealand general manager of safety and response services Nigel Clifford said it was reviewing the 40 series of maritime rules in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport.

The rules cover design, construction and equipment for fishing boats and includes references to emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRBs) and lifejackets, Clifford said.

The review would take the coroner's recommendations into consideration and it was expected to be complete by June next year.

Maritime New Zealand encouraged the wearing of life jackets and in the commercial sector has included encouraging fishermen to wear them at time of heightened risk, Mr Clifford said.

Carrying enough suitable lifejackets was a requirement under maritime rules but commercial fishermen do not have to wear them. Carrying EPIRBs was a requirement under maritime rules and commercial fishermen were "well aware" of the need to carry them and have them readily accessible, he said.



Emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) are distress beacons, which are designed to float in water.

Some require manual activation and have additional safety devices, such as strobe lights.

Others are self-activating and will float free in an emergency.

Source: Maritime New Zealand 

The Southland Times