G Division Federal Investigations Unit (FIU) participated in a Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) last month in Tuktoyaktuk.
The technology, called Automatic Identification System (AIS), is a vessel tracking system that automatically provides updates on a registered vessel's position. It uses a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver which collects the vessel's position and movement details. The information is then broadcasted at regular intervals via a transmitter.
The SAREX was performed from September 16 to 18, in collaboration with the Tuktoyaktuk Marine Rescue Unit of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada and the Tuktoyaktuk Hunters and Trappers Association.
At 10:30 PM, on September 16, 2019, Tuktoyaktuk RCMP started the exercise when they received a call regarding a missing party. The scenario was two hunters who have gone missing, while travelling by boat to hunt in the Richards Islands area, off the coast of Tuktoyaktuk. The vessel was not equipped with an AIS transponder. Due to darkness, the marine search was schedule to start first thing next morning.
At 8:00 AM on September 17, searchers commenced the operation. RCMP Federal Patrol Vessel P/V MacKenzie joined the search, but after a long day on the water, the search was negative. The missing hunters returned safely on their own the following morning.
On September 18, a second SAREX began upon the report of a stranded vessel. The boat had lost propulsion but this time, the searchers had access to the vessel's AIS positional information. Armed with specific location information, the search party located and provided assistance to the vessel within minutes.
"The quick location of the vessel using this technology demonstrate the effectiveness and importance of AIS" states Cpl Jim Strowbridge, Supervisor/Investigator for G Division Federal Investigations Unit.
AIS technology has been around for a number of years, but was mostly used for commercial purposes. As it is becoming more affordable, the system can be installed on almost any vessel. By installing the appropriate electronics and registering with AIS, marine travellers are ensuring that their information is readily available to Search and Rescue members in an emergency. More information on the AIS technology can be found on marinetraffic.com