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MMSI instrumental in Chesapeake Bay rescue

Jun 17, 2016
Sunken power vessel Karen N.

Sunken power vessel Karen N.

Courtesy Maryland Natural Resources Police

An excursion boat carrying students and teachers recently sank in a lonely section of the Chesapeake Bay, and it’s terse mayday call offered no details about the vessel’s location. 

However, authorities and a good Samaritan vessel found Karen N because the vessel had a DSC-VHF radio with a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number. As it sank, Karen N’s captain pressed the distress button, letting the Coast Guard know its exact location. 

Less than an hour later, local crabbers rescued the 23 passengers, who happened to be students, parents and teachers on a field trip. The group was perched on the vessel’s canopy waiting for help. 

This incident illustrates the value of an MMSI service on vessels equipped with DSC-VHF radios. More than 150,000 boaters have received an MMSI number through BoatUS, but many vessel owners with this type of communications systems never sign up.  

BoatUS has made it easier to register through its online service. The $25 fee also includes a BoatUS membership. 

“Because our on water dispatch centers never close, BoatUS can help expedite a US Coast Guard response at any hour and provide boat and emergency contact information,” BoatUS President Margaret Podlich said in a statement. “It’s about giving rescuers descriptive information as quickly as possible to improve the odds of a successful rescue.”

Although MMSI numbers allow boats to contact other vessels directly over DSC VHF radios, the system has other applications. When linked to a GPS or chartplotter, these radios can offer precise location information during an emergency. 

“DSC also makes it very simple to trigger a mayday call with one touch of the red distress button, and the technology works seamlessly with America’s modern, national Rescue-21 system,” according to BoatUS. 

Visit BoatUS to register or for a tutorial DSC VHF radios.

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