MMSI eventually tracked to radio that had been stolen from Irish fishing vessel

Coastguards at Holyhead, North Wales received a VHF DSC automated distress alert on Saturday, causing them to undergo a frantic search.

The distress call was picked up at 7.30pm, but with the position of the vessel unknown, the team were unable to determine whether the distress alert was genuine or a false alarm without a search.

A group of four lifeboats, three Coastguard Rescue Teams and Rescue Helicopter 122 from RAF Valley were sent to search a 706-square-mile area, in the hope of tracking the source of the signal.

The MMSI for the unit was eventually identified to be from a derelict fishing vessel in the Republic of Ireland and Dublin Coastguard confirmed the vessel had been broken into at some point and the radio unit taken.

Holyhead Coastguard watch manager Andy Carroll said: “Anyone buying a second-hand VHF DSC radio must ensure the details are updated on the MMSI database and familiarise yourself with how to operate the unit and how a distress alert is made.

“This is vital for an effective search-and-rescue operation should you get into difficulty.”

He added: “If you think you have inadvertently sent an automated distress alert, don’t hesitate to get in contact with the Coastguard. We would much rather know that it is a false alarm than continue searching needlessly.”

Subscribe to the print version of MBY; subscribe to the digital version of MBY