How to Select an EPIRB?

FAQ & Blogs

An EPIRB, or emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB), is the safety foundation for many vessels. As the main electronic distress beacon, that works on the dedicated 406 MHz Cospas Sarsat search and rescue frequency, it is a mandated safety component on many commercial, fishing and racing vessels.

As a certified safety product, EPIRBs have many mandated features regardless of brand, price or where you buy or install the EPIRB. It can be water or manually activated, it always works on the 406MHz & 121.5MHz frequencies and has a minimum 48H operational life. But what other features should you consider when buying an EPIRB?

The below table looks at some of the ways to review EPIRBs, including features to consider and which products offer them.

Feature Impact Which Products
GNSS – often referred to as ‘GPS’

In the past GNSS was an optional extra, GNSS is now standard on most EPIRBs and is a national requirement in the USA.

The feature to look out for is ‘Multiple GNSS’ or ‘Galileo’

Multiple sources of GNSS refers to the EPIRB including location receivers in addition to GPS. The EU’s Galileo satellites are the latest GNSS provider, offering greater accuracy and, combined with GPS, greater global coverage. By having more than one source of location data, duel GNSS EPIRBs reduce areas where no or limited GNSS coverage is available. 

Benefits of GPS & Galileo:

  • Global Coverage
  • Location accuracy
All of Seas of Solutions latest model distress beacons come with duel GNSS as standard, with the exception of the SmartFind E8 & Safe models.
Return Link Service or RLS

RLS is a new capability activated in 2021 that allows a signal to be sent back to the EPIRB in the form of a blue light. This indicator confirms the distress message has been received and location is known.

Return Link Service
Unique to Galileo satellites, Seas of Solutions were the first to launch an RLS beacon. This re-assurance signal allows EPIRB users to know their beacon has worked and that emergency services know their situation. This feature is particularly valuable for solo or remote sailing. 

Benefit of RLS 

  • Confirms search and rescue are aware of your distress and location 
  • Confirms beacon has worked correctly 

McMurdo
SmartFind PLUS RLS 

Kannad Marine
SafePro + RLS 

Internal AIS or Automatic Identification System

 Internal AIS allows EPIRBs distress signal to be picked up on nearby vessels with AIS plotters and provides GNSS coordinates to allow local recovery.

Internal AIS

First launched by Seas of Solutions brands in 20017, AIS allows local detection of distress alerts from EPIRBs. Prior to internal AIS the EPIRB signal could only be detected by professional search and rescue. 

An additional benefit is that accidental activation can be more easily identified on the owners vessel, as an alert would show on AIS plotters. 

AIS in an EPIRB is particularly beneficial for blue ocean sailing, where other vessels maybe the fastest route to rescue.  

Benefit of AIS

  • Local and global distress alerts 
  • Localized recovery 
  • Self detection of accidental activations 

McMurdo
SmartFind G8 AIS
SmartFind G8 PLUS AIS
SmartFind G8 PLUS RLS 

Kannad Marine
SafePro AIS
SafePro + AIS
SafePro + RLS

SOLAS Legislation

SOLAS legislation developed by the IMO dictates the minimum technical specification for EPIRBS on commercial shipping,  helping to advance the adoption of advances in safety technology.

Changes to SOLAS EPIRB Rules 

From the 1st of July 2022, new standards for EPIRBs on SOLAS vessels come into force. The new SOLAS EPIRB includes: 

  • Internal AIS 
  • Infrared Lights 
  • Altered GNSS Frequencies

The new SOLAS EPIRBs will be required to replace existing commercial ship EPIRBs at the end of their service life, existing EPIRBs can continue to be used until this time. 

For new build vessels the new SOLAS EPIRBs will be required from July 1st.

Benefits of New SOLAS standard EPIRBs: 

  • Accelerate the adoption of modern EPIRB technology
  • Introduce AIS for localized distress detection 
  • Infrared lighting for low visibility detection for search and rescue teams
  • Greater GNSS location accuracy  

New SOLAS EPIRBs

McMurdo
SmartFind G8 PLUS AIS

Kannad Marine
SafePro + AIS

Brands and Product Names
  • McMurdo SmartFind
  • Kannad Marine SafePro

Brand Names 

Seas of Solutions design and manufacture all our beacons to the same rigorous quality standards. All our beacon brands offer the same range of features. 

In selecting an EPIRB it can be beneficial to look at what brands are supported in your area, to ensure ease of support over the life of the EPIRB

EPIRB cost depend on the complexity of the beacon. The E8 and Safe models offer less features on top of the core requirements for an EPIRB and are therefore our economy models. 

Benefits of Brand 

  • Local support 
  • Safety equipment with shared brand 
  • Personal preference 

McMurdo
SmartFind E8
SmartFind G8
SmartFind G8 AIS
SmartFind G8 PLUS AIS
SmartFind G8 PLUS RLS

Kannad Marine
Safe
SafePro
SafePro AIS
SafePro + AIS
SafePro + RLS

Other Features to Consider
  • Autohouse
  • Internal Carry Strap
  • Easy Battery Service
  • Green Packaging

Autohouse
Allows automatic deployment of the EPIRB should the vessel sink. 

Internal carry Strap
A mandated feature in the USA, the strap allows you to carry the beacon while having both hands free. 

Easy Battery Service
Battery compartment designed for easy of access and separate from the beacons electronics. 

Green Packaging 
Designed to be fully recyclable and remove single use plastic inserts, the new packaging will be introduced in 2022. 

  • Autohouse available on all models.   
  • Internal Carry Strap available on all models, apart from the E8 & Safe EPIRBs.  
  • Easy Service available on all models. 
  • Green Packaging will be available on all models.  
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