rescue 21 USCG

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Jul 19, 2004
Thought it was interesting how incidents like this may have showed just how lacking the CG is in technology like recorders.

Equipment. The Safety Board concluded that the tape recorder may have contributed to the Coast Guard's lack of response. Investigators found that the tape recorder being used by Coast Guard Group Charleston (and other stations) is difficult to operate when searching for a specific message. The report notes that the Canadian Coast Guard uses a model recorder that allows a watchstander to easily press a button to play back the most recent message. "The emphasis," the Safety Board says, "should be on 'easily' because the easier the task, the more likely it will be performed."

Had the 0217 message been replayed by the watchstander, at a minimum, the report notes he could have broadcast an urgent marine information broadcast that would have alerted other mariners of the distress call. It is also likely, the report says, that the watch duty officer would have responded much differently to the 0628 call from Pearl Ace, had he been aware of the 0217 call.

What the Coast Guard watchstander wouldn't have been able to do was ascertain where the mayday call was coming from. According to the Safety Board's report, Coast Guard Group Charleston's direction finder (DF) has limited range and is "inaccurate, unreliable, and obsolete." Tests of the equipment found bearing errors of as much as 101°. (Charleston's DF can only give a line-of-sight bearing and cannot give a fix of the vessel's position.) Investigators found, not surprisingly, that watchstander records indicate that the Charleston's DF is usually turned off.
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