At 7.50pm on Saturday, Holyhead Coastguard received a VHF DSC automated distress alert, with no position and a search was launched involving four lifeboats, three Coastguard Rescue Teams and Rescue Helicopter 122 from RAF Valley. The search area encompassed 706 square miles.
Holyhead Coastguard identified the MMSI for the radio unit to be from a derelict fishing vessel in the Republic of Ireland and Dublin Coastguard confirmed the vessel had been broken into at some point and the radio unit taken. Without the details of any new vessel and current owner of the radio unit, Holyhead Coastguard was unable to determine if the distress alert was genuine or a false alert without a search.
Holyhead Coastguard Watch Manager Andy Carroll said,
"Anyone buying a second hand VHF DSC radio must ensure the details are updated on the MMSI database and familiarise yourself with how to operate the unit and how a distress alert is made. This is vital for an effective search and rescue operation should you get into difficulty."
Andy went on to say,
"If you think you have inadvertently sent an automated distress alert, don't hesitate to get in contact with the Coastguard. We would much rather know that it is a false alarm than continue searching needlessly."
VHF DSC and MMSI – explanation of terms used:
Carrying a VHF radio on your vessel is vital and VHF DSC (Digital Selective Calling) is strongly recommended. Ensure your radio equipment is fully working and you know what to do in an emergency. With DSC you can send a distress alert along with your exact position, with one touch of the button. The distress alert is repeated every four minutes until it is acknowledged either by a Coastguard Station (Ship to Shore) or by a vessel (Ship to Ship) within radio range.
Ensure you have updated your MMSI details – this is especially important if you have just bought the boat with a radio already installed or you are installing a new DSC, radio set. Maritime Mobile Service Identity ( MMSI) numbers are programmed into a DSC radio set and an MMSI is issued as part of your radio licence application, via Ofcom. It consists of a series of nine digits, which are used to uniquely identify the radio on your vessel.