safety at sea

Spending the day out on the open water is a great way to destress and escape the world, with thousands of us taking to the water every year. However, without the necessary safety precautions in place, you can open yourself up to a plethora of dangers.

On 1 July 2002, The Merchant Shipping (Safety of Navigation) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/1473) came into force, some of which directly affect pleasure vessel users. These Regulations implement the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 (SOLAS). Most of the SOLAS Convention applies to large commercial ships, but part also applies to small, privately owned pleasure craft.

In short, if you’re using a boat at sea, you must consider the international safety regulations.

This covers all aspects of safety at sea including how you must:

  • Plan your voyage
  • Carry a radar reflector
  • Carry an illustrated table of recognised life-saving signals
  • Help other crafts, if needed
  • Use distress signals properly

There are multiple dangers when using your boat at sea, including the risk of colliding with another vessels. It’s vital that you make your boat visible and stay alert at all times to avoid collisions. The regulations on preventing collisions at sea outline how you must:

  • Fit navigation lights, shapes and sound-signalling devices on your vessel
  • Stay a safe distance away from other boats
  • Keep your distance from diving boats flying the blue-and-white ‘Alpha’ flag
  • Be alert to other boats around you at all times

There is a significant risk of serious injury due to carelessness. Learn more on preventing collisions with The Merchant Shipping (Distress Signal and Prevention of Collisions) Regulations 1996

Safety Equipment For Your Vessel

When out at sea, there are regulations surrounding the safety equipment your vessel must have onboard. If your boat is more than 13.7 metres long, you must carry:

The specific details of what you need to carry will depend on the size of your boat and how far you’re travelling away from the coast. Before setting off on your voyage, ensure you have the necessary equipment for your journey and that it is in working order. If you are navigating offshore, a communication device will be one of the most important tools onboard any maritime vessel. Safety is paramount, as conditions can change very quickly and without warning. Please note, if you have a commercial vessel it must meet certain operational standards and you will need to have to boat surveyed.

You may also want to consider an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) or PLB (Personal Locator Beacons) which allow Search and Rescue agencies to quickly and accurately identify and locate an incident for a successful rescue. An EPIRB does not rely on you being within VHF radio range for you to make a distress call, it just needs to be functioning correctly.

Another option that increases the likelihood of a successful rescue is the SART (Search and Rescue Transponder) which works by creating a series of dots on a rescuing ships radar display, allowing them to locate you with ease. All vessels up to 500 gross tonnage must carry at least one SART. Vessels over 500 gross tonnage must carry at least two SARTs.

Here at Smye Rumsby, our marine engineers can work with your vessel’s safety equipment for Global Maritime Distress & Safety System (GMDSS), EPIRBs, AIS, SARTS and lifeboat radios to ensure you stay safe at sea. GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety Systems) is a system put in place that ensures ships have specific requirements which need to be met depending on the size of the vessel and the number of passengers on board. It’s vital that your vessel’s equipment is in good working order before setting off on any journey. Our team are here to ensure everything is working to keep you safe in an emergency.