Fishing Boat Owner Fined $8,000 for Falsely Activating Distress Signal

HONOLULU – The owner of a Honolulu-based fishing vessel was fined May 29 for falsely activating a distress signal approximately 150 nautical miles northeast of Oahu.

The fishing vessel Princess K, owned by the Princess K Fishing Corporation, was fined $8,000 by the Federal Communications Commission for “falsely activating an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), thereby engaging in superfluous communications resulting in the transmission of false distress communications.”

On Feb. 26, 2008, Coast Guard search and rescue coordinators at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center here were notified of the distress signal via the Search and Rescue Satellite (SARSAT) system. The master of the Princess K did not respond to several radio transmissions by Coast Guard personnel so the Coast Guard launched a C-130 long-range search aircraft from Air Station Barber’s Point; the air crew located the fishing vessel approximately 18 nautical miles from the origin of the distress signal.

The Coast Guard expended more than three aircraft hours and six personnel hours at a cost of more than $35,000. In addition, the EPIRB, which was thrown overboard, was not retrieved and continued transmitting until March 1, 2008, potentially masking an actual search and rescue alert.

False activations of EPIRBs and other emergency locating devices, such as emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) have the potential to severely impact the search and rescue network, resulting in responder resources being wasted and misdirected. Air searches for false EPIRB and ELT activations cost the Coast Guard thousands of dollars per search hour. False activations also can cause harmful interference to the SARSAT system and to airplanes and vessels in the vicinity of the signal.

Mariners are urged to contact the Coast Guard immediately in the event an emergency locating device is activated, even if there is no distress to report. In addition, mariners should transfer or update their registration data if the device is sold. If an electronic device is no longer serviceable, owners should remove the battery, destroy the device, and notify the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov/

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