The Distress Alert Transponder (DAT), a native device developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in consultation with the Indian Coast Guard (ICG), saved the lives of nine Indian sailors.
The nine-crew mechanized sailboat (MSV) Annai Vailankanne Arockia Vennila, ran aground on the high seas and encountered onboard flooding in rough sea conditions as it sailed between Tuticorin (southern Tamil Nadu) and the Maldives, due to a technical problem.
The Indian Coast Guard’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) in Chennai received the ship’s distress message, sent via DAT at 4 p.m. Tuesday. At the time of the incident, the vessel was 170 nautical miles from Tuticorin and 230 NM from the Maldives. The MRCC launched national search and rescue services and activated the International Safety Net (ISN) to coordinate search and rescue.
Two merchant vessels – MV SKS Mosel and MC MCP Salzburg, in the area, were identified and diverted to the location of the distressed vessel.
MV MCP Salzburg arrived at the stricken vessel in the early hours of Wednesday (2:30 a.m.) and safely rescued the nine crew members before proceeding to her next port of call (NPC) in the Maldives, where the rescued crew will disembark.
DATs are transported by Indian fishing boats, mechanized sailboats, coastal vessels and other small vessels. The distress alert is monitored 24x7x365 by the Coast Guard MRCC in the respective regions.
Jointly developed by ISRO and ICG, the DAT is an economical and efficient satellite transmitter designed for fishermen. With the push of a button, this device transmits distress alerts to search and rescue authorities via the INSAT series of satellites. In an emergency, the user can select a distress message (shipwreck / fire / medical aid / other emergencies). The DAT combines the message with the boat’s position (based on GPS) and transmits it every few minutes, until it is manually turned off or until the battery runs out.
The Indian Coast Guard stressed that fishermen must wear the DAT device and register it for efficient and rapid search and rescue. The DAT unit also helps fishermen to receive other information such as potential fishing areas, weather alerts etc.
The Indian National Satellite System (INSAT) is one of the largest national communications satellite systems in the Asia-Pacific region, with several operational communications satellites placed in geostationary orbit. Established in 1983 with the commissioning of the INSAT-1B, it initiated a major revolution in the communications sector in India and sustained the same later.
According to ISRO, the INSAT system with more than 200 transponders in the extended C, C and Ku bands provides services in telecommunications, television broadcasting, satellite information collection, societal applications, weather forecasting, disaster warning and search and rescue operations.