SAVING LIVES: Tin Can Bay Coast Guard weekend crew skipper John Macfarlane watches the progress of two vessels near the treacherous Wide Bay Bar, keeping them safe with the aid of Automated Identification System technology.
SAVING LIVES: Tin Can Bay Coast Guard weekend crew skipper John Macfarlane watches the progress of two vessels near the treacherous Wide Bay Bar, keeping them safe with the aid of Automated Identification System technology. Arthur Gorrie

The people and technology saving lives and boats at Bay

LIVES and boats are being saved at Tin Can Bay and all along the Queensland coast, thanks to new vessel monitoring technology and the people who use it.

John Macfarlane is one of those people and he says new life saving technology can be installed on some vessels for less than the cost of their fuel.

"I believe we've saved probably 12 boats in the past year,” he said from Tin Can Bay Coast Guard headquarters at Norman Point.

The technology is known as AIS, which stands for Automated Identification System.

"The good people at the Rainbow Beach Surf Club have helped us by letting us install an aerial to pick up AIS data.”

That data, he says, includes not only the vessel's location, but its direction of travel, name, speed and size.

"It's a collision avoidance system too,” Mr McFarland said.

The skipper of the Coast Guard's weekend crew, he says the information allows the Coast Guard to give early warnings of strife.

"Boats that have AIS transmit a regular VHF signal,” he said.

"We can tell where it's going and if it's heading for trouble.

"For example, the sand banks have shifted on the Wide Bay bar and beacons have been shifted too.

"If we see a boat heading the wrong way, we can warn them.

"We can say, 'You need to turn north and do it now'.

"And then we can tell them what they need to do from there,” he said.

"They might be using old way points of none at all and we can see if they are heading for shallow water.

"We can give them guidance and prevent a disaster,” he said.

"It also helps us find anyone who's broken down or whatever.

"It costs about $1000 to put a transponder on a boat although our equipment here cost us $8000 or so.

When you consider that a trawler heading out may have a tank of fuel with 1000 litres of diesel, the transponder doesn't cost all that much in the scheme of things,” he said.

Gympie Times


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