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Europe beckons for ChCh communication company

Europe beckons for Christchurch rescue communication company

25 January 2006 - When just minutes can make the difference between life and death, it's helpful to know you've got modern technology you can rely on to come to your rescue. Already popular in Australasia, the new generation MRB4 marine rescue beacons manufactured by Christchurch Company, Sea Air and Land Communications, Salcom, will soon be headed for the European market.

Salcom is the longest serving manufacturer of marine rescue beacons in the Southern Hemisphere and is putting the updated marine rescue beacon through its final paces at testing centres in New Zealand and in the United Kingdom.

The MRB4 has been overhauled and modernised in line with new and standardized international rescue policies which have dedicated the 406 MHz frequency exclusively for distress calls. The 121.5MHz satellite network on which existing rescue beacons now operate will be officially scrapped on 1 February 2009.

Salcom has been manufacturing Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon's (EPIRB) for nearly 30 years and has established a worldwide reputation for producing one of the most powerful and effective beacons available at an affordable price. Director Colin McKenzie says this next generation of safety locators will now have total global coverage, automatic activation capability, identification, and greater location accuracy in an emergency.

"The MRB406 uses geostationary and polar orbiting satellites to send identification information to Search & Rescue stations. In a mayday situation the position of a stricken vessel can be pinpointed to within 100 metres using the MRB406 GPS version.

Salcom already export over 80% of the EPIRB's they produce and are working closely with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to meet the rigorous compliance testing required by the European market.

David Penny, Sector Director for Specialised Manufacturing with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise says while the latest improvements will make the MRB4 even more attractive than its successors, the cost of meeting the European testing requirements has been daunting.

"NZTE was able to help because we recognised the enormous potential for worldwide sales for the MRB4. These beacons have already proved themselves in the field in Australasia and with the improvements will now have even greater international appeal."

The MRB4's compulsory registration system also ensures the identity of the user and vessel is known immediately once the beacon is activated and begins broadcasting its digitally coded signal.

NZTE is also working with Salcom to locate potential off-shore distributors for another of the company's key products, the Search and Rescue Communicator. This low-cost, simple to use, fully immersible emergency radio has been made compulsory equipment for all solo yachtsman in Around the World yacht races following its successful use in the dramatic rescue of Frenchman Terry Devoir in 1997.

The Communicator was also used in the rescue of two Lyttleton yachties off the Chatham Islands in October this year.

McKenzie says that over 800 of these units have been sold to Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand Search and Rescue Squadrons as a low cost replacement for the expensive military style transceivers previously used and which were often never recovered.


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