Personal Locator Beacons (PLB)

A PLB is not a replacement for an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), but is a useful addition to your safety kit. Understand the advantages, disadvantages and regulations.

What is a Personal Locator Beacon?

This information is current as of July 2010.

Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) are designed for personal use in both marine and land environments. PLBs operate on a frequency of 406Mhz and come in two basic types – those which provide an encoded (GPS) location and those which do not.

When a beacon is activated, a satellite system is used to calculate the beacon’s location.

PLBs are not a substitute for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and this information does not apply to EPIRBs.


  • Locating a distress site is usually much faster if the beacon signal provides a GPS location.
  • PLBs operate for a minimum of 24 hours once activated.
  • Risk mitigation becomes substantially easier on a large commercial vessel with many crew members and limited ability to monitor crew members and confined spaces.


A PLB is not a replacement for an EPIRB, but is a useful adjunct.


PLBs are not mandatory for the master or passengers on recreational and small commercial vessels being operated on NSW waters.

Carrying a PLB does not satisfy the requirement to carry an EPIRB.

More information

More information about PLBs is available on the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Beacons website. Or download the AMSA Distress beacons information brochure.

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