Irish Sailing Association launches app designed to save lives on the water

22 Aug 2013

The Irish Sailing Association (ISA) has launched a new app designed to save lives on the water. The app enables boat and leisure craft owners to log their voyages directly with the Irish Coast Guard via their smartphones.

The app – ISA Safe Trx – developed in association with the Irish Coast Guard and DeCare Systems Ireland – will ensure voyages are accessed and monitored by chosen emergency contacts, as well as the Coast Guard.

“SafeTrx helps take the search out of search and rescue. It encourages all sea users to plan and execute their trips better and more safely, and gives assurance to friends and partners ashore,” said Chris Reynolds, director of the Irish Coast Guard.

Available for both Android and Apple iOS devices, ISA SafeTrx logs position reports every kilometre (or every five minutes if stationary). Should the user fail to return on time, their emergency contacts will be automatically alerted via SMS and advised to initiate the appropriate action.

Voyage position reports are displayed on the SafeTrx Monitoring Console, so when an emergency contact calls the Irish Coast Guard concerning an overdue trip, the Irish Coast Guard will have access to the user’s location and SafeTrx trip data through a secure SafeTrx server. As the ISA SafeTrx app periodically sends location data back to the servers, the Coast Guard’s response team can get help directly and quickly.

While the app is not intended to be used as a replacement for statutorily recognised safety devices (such as AIS, marine radios, and marine emergency positioning beacons), it is a resource that in some instances may help to raise an alarm earlier and assist emergency services to locate casualties more accurately. The majority of small crafts, particularly sea kayakers, anglers, jet-ski users, powerboaters and small sailing boats, do not carry the AIS tracking device.

The perfect storm – massive increase in emergency missions at sea

By the end of July this year, Irish Coast Guard statistics showed a 45pc increase in the number of emergency missions, bringing the total figure of individual incidents to 1,572. Throughout the history of the Irish Coast Guard, the record of annual incidents has never surpassed 2,000 but it is anticipated that this number will be exceeded by as early as the autumn.

ISA chief executive Harry Hermon said, “Last year, over 1,000 people were assisted from difficulty by the Coast Guard and the RNLI with over 160 lives saved. Unfortunately, not all seafarers returned safely. I believe that ISA SafeTrx, which has been designed by Coast Guard professionals and built in Cork, will help to reduce the number of fatalities on the water even further. I have no doubt that this will save many lives.”

In no fewer than five out of the 10 MCIB reports published so far in 2013, it has been recommended that, “Details of an intended trip be left with a responsible person ashore, along with the latest time of return and that the person ashore should contact the emergency services shortly after the expected time of return has passed.”

ISA SafeTrx will not only facilitate this recommendation, but will also help the Coast Guard assess details, such as craft description, contact details ashore, previous activity, where the boat was last visible to the network and where headed, persons on board and other information all targeted at reducing the time that seafarers spend in the water waiting for a lifeboat or helicopter.

“The concept of safety at sea and on our network of rivers and lakes must become as commonplace as that of safety on our roads,” Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food, Simon Coveney said.

“We need to create a culture of safety first for those travelling on our waters for either commercial or recreational reasons. With loss of life continuing across the maritime spectrum, those who make their living from the sea and those who utilise the sea primarily for leisure purposes must ensure that safety becomes a top priority.”

Sea storm image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years