Clarification on 121.5/243 MHz EPIRB Use Prohibition:

FCC Regulations state that the operation of Class A, B, and S Maritime EPIRB (121.5/243 MHz) radio beacons are prohibited after 31 December 2006. This prohibition does not apply to Emergency Locating Transmitters (ELT) normally carried on aircraft or to man overboard devices that operate on 121.5 MHz.

The Coast Guard will continue to respond if a 121.5/243 MHz EPIRB is used in a distress situation after 31 December 2006, recognizing that mariners should use any available means to signal distress. The Coast Guard does not anticipate imposing penalties or initiating enforcement action should a boater activate a 121.5/243 MHz if used in a distress situation.

Boaters who activate their EPIRB in a non-distress situation such as a false alert may be subject to FCC penalties and the Coast Guard may consider a criminal investigation and prosecution for any intentional misuse of a 121.5/243 MHz EPIRB.

Owners of Class A, B, or S 121.5 MHz EPIRBS are encouraged to replace these beacons with Category I or Category II 406 MHz beacons. Pilots are also encouraged to purchase 406 MHz ELTs for their aircraft prior to the 1 February 2009 date when satellite detection of the 121.5 MHz signal terminates.

Questions can be directed to: District 17 U.S. Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety at (907) 463-2297 or