Change to Mayday Relay Protocol

Change to Distress Relay protocol

Earlier this year the RYA liaised with the MCA and AMERC (Association of Marine Electronic and Radio Colleges) to review the protocol for Distress Relay. The key change, agreed in May 2019, is:

An Urgency Announcement should not be sent prior to transmitting a voice‘Mayday Relay’ call and message.

Therefore, if a distress is received by DSC or voice, the skipper of a vessel should act as follows:

  1. Wait five minutes for the distress to be acknowledged by the Coastguard or another vessel

  2. If no acknowledgement or distress working is heard, send a ‘Received Mayday’ voice call to the station

    in distress, then:

  3. Relay the distress message to the nearest Coastguard, which may be by any means, but should

    primarily be sent using a ‘Mayday Relay” voice call addressed to the specific Coastguard station

    followed by repetition of the original ‘Mayday message’.

  4. The Coastguard should respond and take over distress working and co-ordinate the assistance.

  5. If unable to contact a Coast station, send a ‘Mayday Relay’ call, addressed to ‘All Stations’, followed by

    the repetition of the original ‘Mayday message’. You should then prepare to co-ordinate the assistance to the vessel in distress between yourself and any other vessels in the vicinity.

The same approach, starting at step 3, should be taken if you believe another vessel, aircraft, person or vehicle is in distress and unable to transmit its own distress signal.

Summary of other regulatory and technological changes

  •   The term ‘SART’ may refer to an AIS-based ‘Search and Rescue Transmitter’ or a radar-based‘Search and Rescue Transponder’. Both systems are now officially part of the GMDSS.

  •   The channels on which UK Maritime Safety Information (MSI) messages are transmitted have been changed to 62, 63 and 64.

  •   Ship Portable Radio Licence (SPRL) is for equipment such as a handheld VHF, PLB or EPIRB that may be used on multiple vessels. An SPRL is valid only to the extent of UK territorial seas.

  •   Some VHF sets fitted with DSC now include an in-built function to cancel a distress alert instead of the switch-off-switch-back-on approach. Users of VHF radios are reminded of the importance of familiarising themselves with the specific equipment that they will use.

  •   RYA SafeTrx has replaced CG66 as the UK’s voluntary identification database.


    •   Official ITU Radio Regulations terminology has been adopted to refer to urgency, safety and routineDSC calls. The correct terms are, ‘Urgency Announcement', 'Safety Announcement' and 'Routine Announcement'. Previously these we referred to as ‘Alerts’, a term which is reserved for DSC ‘Distress’calls only.

    •   An EPIRB or PLB must be programmed with a Hex ID. An EPIRB may also incorporate an AIS transmitter as well as a GNSS receiver.


    © Royal Yachting Association 9/19

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