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IRPCS Distress Signals
16 Apr 2019

DISTRESS SIGNALS – from the IRPCS and Colregs

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Take a look at the distress signals video for a complete guide. The IRPCS or Colregs detail all the recognised distress signals for shipping. There are 15 recognised signals as well as an additional 2. The additional 2 come from the International Code of Signals search and rescue manual.

List of the Distress Signals

The following signals are mentioned:

  1. A gun or other explosive signal fried every minute
  2. Continuous sounding of fog signalling apparatus
  3. Rockets or shells throwing red stars
  4. SOS
  5. Signal containing the spoken word Mayday
  6. Signal flags N over C
  7. A square flag with a ball either above or below it
  8. Flames on the vessel
  9. A red rocket or hand flare
  10. Orange smoke coloured flare
  11. Slowly raising and lowering the arms
  12. A digital distress alert via DSC
  13. Ship to shore distress alert using the ships Inmarsat
  14. EPIRB – emergency position indicating radio beacon
  15. Approved signals from RADAR transponders. SART’s

The additional two signals in the in the search and rescue manual are:

  1. Orange canvas with a black ball and square
  2. A dye marker

The annex states that the use of any of these signals except for the purpose of indicating distress is not allowed. So you can only use them when you need assistance.

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