COMMERCIAL vessel owners and operators are being urged to act to ensure their vessels are fitted with float-free Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons before the New Year deadline.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority legislated changes requiring certain commercial vessels to carry float-free EPIRBs from 1 January 2021 following the deaths of 14 commercial fishers and divers between 2015 and 2017.

The men did not have time to manually activate the EPIRBS or to make radio contact with search and rescue authorities.

But float-free EPIRBS deploy automatically when the vessel they are attached to capsizes or sinks, automatically alerting authorities who can launch a search and rescue within minutes.

AMSA analysis suggests about one in seven vessels that will require float-free EPIRBs have already installed and registered one with AMSA.

Deputy PM Michael McCormack said vessel owners and operators needed to act now.

“If you are the owner or skipper of one of these commercial vessels and you haven’t placed an order with a retailer yet – now is the time,” Mr McCormack said.

“Order your float-free EPIRB now, you need to have it properly installed and registered with AMSA before 1 January 2021.”

Mr McCormack acknowledged this had been a difficult year for many of Australia’s diverse commercial vessel tourism and fishing industries.

“It would be an absolute tragedy if another life was lost at sea when a small investment in technology now might prevent that from happening in the future,” he said.