Is Orbcomm a reliable search-and-rescue tool?

To the editor:

Reading the November/December 1999 issue, I ran across the following quote in the Chartroom Chatter section, regarding the timely rescue of Arne and Christian Froensdal while 300 miles from Rockhampton, Queensland, after they requested help from Orbcomm’s customer service using their Magellan GSC 100. Orbcomm spokesperson Wende Cover said, “The system is not necessarily intended for emergencies, but it worked well for that purpose in this case.” Since it is my intention to use the Magellan GSC 100 for both common and emergency communications, I am concerned about Cover’s statement. I’m hoping that the use of the Magellan GSC 100 for emergency communications is not somehow limited.Wende Cover responds:

Generally, the time it takes to send a message from the Magellan GCS 100 with Orbcomm service is a few minutes. However, there are remote areas where the communications transaction can take more time. The Magellan GSC 100 is an excellent navigation aid and ideal for general communication purposes. In addition, we have heard from customers who have successfully used the product in search-and-rescue situations. However, Orbcomm wants customers to understand that messages are not transmitted instantaneously and that there may be a delay, depending on location. We feel that this is important information when addressing “rescue” situations. Orbcomm customer operations is not an emergency response center and is currently open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Anyone using the Magellan GSC 100 on a sailing trip should take along (or pre-program) the e-mail addresses of the nearest search-and-rescue organizations in case of emergency.

By Ocean Navigator