The Coast Guard is urging paddlecraft owners to properly secure and label their vessels after responding to two unmanned-adrift vessel cases Tuesday evening.
Coast Guard crews treat every unmanned-adrift vessel as a search and rescue case and immediately launch a search for potential mariners in distress.
“Every unmanned-adrift vessel is treated as a potential distress situation, which takes up valuable time, resources and manpower,” said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Brook Serbu. “When the craft is properly labeled, the situation can often be quickly resolved with a phone call to the vessel owner, which minimizes personnel fatigue and negative impacts on crew readiness.”
Helicopter and boat crews individually search an average of two hours per response and a similar amount of time is spent by other government agency personnel. Additionally, Coast Guard command center and 911 center personnel spend an additional four hours investigating the incident.
Coast Guard officials encourage all paddlecraft owners to label their vessels using a permanent or waterproof marker covered with clear, waterproof tape for increased durability. You can also check with a local outdoor recreation retailer or Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla to obtain a Paddle Smart Identification Sticker. At the very least, the label should include the name of the vessel’s owner, a number to reach them and a secondary point of contact.
In the event that the vessel is adrift, crews can use that information to contact the owner and avoid launching an unnecessary search.
If the owner of a vessel is unable to be located after a reasonable amount of time, Coast Guard crews are forced to destroy the vessel or turn it over to the state for disposal.
Mariners who encounter unmanned-adrift vessels or other hazards to navigation are encouraged to contact the Coast Guard 13th District Command Center at 206-220-7001 or via VHF-FM Channel 16.