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19 September 2003, 12:58 pm
Navigational Aids - Racon Beacons
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ISAF International Regulations Commission

The ISAF International Regulations Commission requests input from Member National Authorities and sailors concerning Racon (radar beacons) and their usefulness.
Current guidelines of the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) recommend that authorities responsible for the provision of Aids to Navigation normally should provide dual band "X" and "S" band racons. A paper was recently considered at IMO suggesting that the requirement for radar equipment to operate with racons at "S" band can be removed from the mandatory performance requirements in order to allow innovative design of radar operating in this band. The likely timescale for the introduction of any amendments to the operational performance standards for SOLAS vessels is 2007. However, the development of new type radars for small craft, which do not have to meet the IMO performance specifications, has already started and they could be soon on the market. Assurances have been given that any new radar equipment for SOLAS vessels will need to work with existing types, until they are phased out somewhere in the region of 2027 and that "S" band racons will not therefore need to be disabled, whilst historic radars remain. There is, however, a concern that existing dual band racons may themselves not meet the new draft International Telecommunications Union (ITU) standard on spurious and out of band emissions from radar. A technical assessment of the implications of this is being made accordingly by the General Lighthouse Authorities and IALA, as this could well impact on our ability to continue to provide a racon service with the existing racon types.

In support of the IMO paper, it has recently been stated, "comments attributed to mariners indicate that racons are little used". Racons currently cost in the order of £28,000 each to purchase. It would be helpful to have yachtsmen's views on the validity of the statement made and on the usefulness, or otherwise of racons, to ensure that the level of service the GLAs' provide continues to meet the mariners requirements both now and in the future.

The issue will be on the agenda of the forthcoming meeting of the International Regulations Commission in November and your reply to Sebastian Edmonds at the ISAF Secretariat by 20 October would be appreciated.
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