The U.S. Coast Guard has sent a letter to the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) requesting assistance in resolving several major problems with the use of radios equipped to provide Digital Selective Calling (DSC). DSC radios, which are now the only type of VHF marine radios that may be sold in the U.S.A., have an emergency alert function that may be triggered by a mariner in order to send an automated message to the Coast Guard. If properly hooked up to a GPS unit, the boat’s current position will be included as part of the automated distress alert, along with the boater’s Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number.
However, in the letter, the Coast Guard notes that 9 out of 10 alerts do not include GPS information because boaters have not made the proper connection to their GPS units, and 6 out of 10 alerts do not include the MMSI because boaters have not registered. The Coast Guard notes in the letter that one of the major problems is that currently available wiring in radios and GPS units requires some skill to set up and essentially means that most boaters must hardwire the connections, making it difficult to remove the equipment for theft prevention or winter storage. This means a lot of boaters are reluctant to wire up the units.