EPIRB programming

The EPIRB must be programmed with the vessel's MMSI before it is used and must be labelled accordingly.

How to program

Before purchasing an EPIRB, the following information must be communicated to the authorised dealer:

  • The MMSI code
  • If there are other operational EPIRBs on board and their number.
  • The name of the vessel

In this way the dealer will have all the data to program the EPIRB and label it.

For programming purposes, the manufacturer, distributor or an authorized station may provide, if the reseller is not one of these subjects, it is assumed that he has established a relationship with one of them in order to deliver the programmed EPIRB.

What is released after programming

The dealer (among other documents), will have to release the programming report that contains all the data entered and among these also the MMSI, useful to verify that the station has not made any errors.

The report also reports the UIN (also called hex ID) that expresses in hexadecimal format the data entered inside, the UIN is important because it will be required for the registration of the EPIRB at the center COSPAS-SARSAT Bari.

It is important that the report also shows the date of programming, the date of the next SBM (next SBM date) and the signature of the final verification and approval officer.

EPIRB labelling

Programmazione EPIRB n.1
Programmazione EPIRB n.2

The labelling as well as required is important to facilitate the testing and verification operations and must report:

  • The UIN code
  • The name of the vessel
  • The date of the next SBM

An example of labelling is shown in the images on the left.

Other information affixed by the manufacturer, such as: model name, serial number, type and warnings, is also stamped on the EPIRB.

EPIRB Programming Technical Notions

The EPIRB identification data must be stored in an internal memory that will contain the message that will be sent in case of activation.

The message can be of two types:

  • "112 bit "Short Message Format" - uses bits from position 1 to 112, range called PDF-1
  • "Long Message Format" 144 bits - the bits from position 113 to 144 that are called PDF-2. It is used for EPIRB with GPS, because the position information also travels within the message and the "Short Message" would not be able to contain this information.

Protocols for models without GPS

For an EPIRB without GPS (both automatic and manual), the "Maritime User Protocol" is used in Italy. In some countries it is possible to program the EPIRB using the International Name and also in this case the "Maritime User Protocol" must be used.

Protocols for GPS models

For EPIRBs with GPS, the "Standard Location Protocol" should be used, which allows the position information to be reported to an accuracy of 4 seconds (approximately 120 meters). In the Standard Location Protocol, information about the grades is given in PDF-1 and the remainder in PDF-2.

In some countries, in some cases you need more space for identification data and in this case you have to use the "User Location Protocol" which reduces the position information to an accuracy of only 4 minutes (approximately 6 miles), because for the position information the message can only use the PDF-2.

Using the Serial User Protocol

In some countries such as Great Britain, if the boat is not equipped with MMSI (even Great Britain like Italy does not accept the International Name), is tolerated the programming of the EPIRB through its serial number using precisely the "Serial User Protocol". However, in the case of EPIRB with GPS you must use an international serial number assigned to the manufacturer because the message is normally not able to contain all the bits of the serial number of the unit.

Among the "Related Items" we release a direct link to the COSPAS-SARSAT to the page to decode the UIN code, useful to verify any information entered.