What are electronic visual distress signals?

16 June 2020

Electronic Visual Distress Signals (EVDS) are hand-held non-pyrotechnic devices an alternative to pyrotechnic flares, as they are cheaper, safer, easy to test and also much easier to dispose of.

They emit a light pattern that is intense and distinctive, however there is concern at the moment that they may not be recognised as a distress alert.

Electronic Visual Distress Signals are not currently recognised as a distress alerting device by COLREG, so if the yacht has to carry flares by law (commercial operations for example), then flares they must carry.  However as a “final mile” location finder they could be a good addition, as long as the flares are ready to be deployed if the EVDS is not recognised.  So for vessels not required by law to carry flares, they should be wary of relying too heavily on EVDS, just in case. 

Work is being carried out by various authorities to make sure these devices are fit for purpose and to be recognised by the International Maritime Organisation.  This is good news which will in turn require the Collision Regulations to be updated.

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