Use of VHF radios and AIS (Automated Identification System) in the Whitsundays
VMR Whitsunday is well known for its Marine Rescues, but in the background, we also provide vital Marine Communications facilities for VHF radio, as well as vessel tracking facilities via AIS to Marine Traffic on the internet. Every boatie should already be aware of the functionality of VHF radios as a safer and more reliable means of communication than a mobile phone while they are out on the water, but they may not be as familiar with AIS.
AIS is a system that the you can fit on your boat that identifies your position and past track on the internet and to other AIS-equipped vessels, and can greatly assist if rescue services need to locate you in an emergency. The number of boats fitted with AIS units is expanding rapidly, and it is a great addition to the safety equipment on your vessel. Have a look at the Marine Traffic website at https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/centerx:148.9/centery:-20.2/zoom:11. Attached is a screen shot showing the number of AIS equipped vessels, and you may be surprised at the number of recreational vessels already running AIS – it is mandatory on larger commercial vessels.
VMRW has 3 AIS receiving stations, at Shute Harbour, on Whitsunday Island, and on Hayman Island – and all are up and running. The units each cover an area of over 2,000 to 3,000 sq. kms and get coverage to the outer reef, and there are now very few AIS black spots within the Whitsundays. AIS coverage from the Mt Robison site at an altitude of 400m on Whitsunday Island varies from 2500 sq. kms to over 3500 sq. kms, depending upon atmospherics at the time, and that site was recognised by Marine Traffic as being the most innovative AIS installation world-wide. The Hayman site is at an altitude of 250m, and covers around 2,000 sq. kms. Shute Harbour covers about the same.
More and more recreational vessels are fitting AIS, and it is well worth considering as an additional safety feature on almost anything bigger than a tinny. We have AIS on both of our rescue vessels, including our 6.7 secondary vessel.
Installing a VHF radio is strongly recommended, not just if you plan on going to the outer reef, but around the islands as well. You should have a licence to operate VHF, you can even do that online. You cannot rely on mobile phone coverage around the islands, and there is virtually none on the eastern side.
Your VHF should always be on, and we recommend always monitoring the emergency channel 16. Make sure you have the squelch setting adjusted correctly. Put your radio onto dual watch if you want to listen to another channel, but you should always be monitoring 16 in case a vessel near you requires your assistance or needs to get your attention. The other repeater sites are VHF 81 on Whitsunday Island and VHF 82 on Hayman Island.
VMRW membership is cheap insurance at just $80. You can join online at https://vmrwhitsundays.com.au/join/ and your membership helps to keep us going in case you need us.