Coastguard warns over radio block

23/6/2011    sb''Coastguard Search and Rescue award  base in Lee-On-The-Solent.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (112252-1)
23/6/2011 sb''Coastguard Search and Rescue award base in Lee-On-The-Solent.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (112252-1)

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SAILORS who mistakenly block the radio distress channel are putting lives at risk, the coastguard has warned.

The problem is caused by faulty transmitters or sailors switching them on accidentally.

Blocking the frequency used by sailors to send out mayday calls can make it impossible for Solent Coastguard to find stricken vessels. Only the strongest radio will get through on the channel, drowning out other signals.

Last month a small boat’s radio blocked the emergency channel 16 during the Round the Island Race in which the coastguard dealt with 77 incidents in 10 hours.

While emergency calls direct to the coastguard can be made by mobile phone, distress calls on VHF radio have the advantage of being heard by nearby vessels.

Coastguard watch officer Gary Hall said: ‘The problem has always been around but it has become more prevalent and common these days because a lot of people are mounting VHF radios on the cockpit of yachts and on the console of a powerboat. They’re being mounted outside where people sit and people are pressing the button accidentally. They are transmitting on channel 16 which is the distress channel. Ultimately lives are at risk from this.’