Workboat Show 2016 in New Orleans, was a huge success.  Subchapter M was the big focus this year. June 2016 the Coast Guard released the final rule. July 20, 2018 is the deadline for the two-year phase-in.  By 2022, Subchapter M should be fully in place.  This means, towing vessels will become safer vessels and lose their un-inspected label. But is that enough?

The show had more than 400 exhibitors. The thing that struck me was the number of companies that focus strictly on safety and survival.  These exhibitors have products ranging from lighting to PFD’s and Life-rafts.  Though their products are like other exhibitors, a few had a slightly different focus. Some had great stories to share on their products use and by whom. Others told how their products could save so many more lives, if only. If only their target market saw the product as an investment in saving lives versus dollar signs.

Here’s a sample of four businesses I spoke with.

Radio Zeeland DMP – Maritime Early Detection System

Radio Zeeland, DMP showcased two of their products; the new Titan line and their Maritime Early Detection System (MEDS). The MEDS serves as a key component of the Maritime Intruder Detection Sonar (MIDS). It integrates with a network of infra-red cameras. These go around the perimeter of a ship.

As David Leone, President of Radio DMP, explained, the system has laser sensors designed to send body mass; coming aboard the ship or going overboard. Once the sensor senses the mass, the camera records the activity. Upon activation of the activity, the view gets split on the screen. It does a complete playback for 15 frames continuously. The data gets transmitted to an iPod, iPhone, or computer. Then the operator can see what went overboard or if someone tried to board the ship illegally.  This system acts as both a security fence and man overboard device. It has a high price tag of around $1m. However, there have been over 200 people overboard on cruise ships since 2000 ( Averaging around 17.75 people per year. To me, this seems like a great product for cruise ships and I can’t help wonder if entertaining their passengers is worth more than saving lives. (

Jotron – Voice Data Recorder Capsule

Jotron, makes a float free Voice Data Recorder (VDR) capsule. This is like an EPIRB except the bottom contains a storage module. The intent here is if the ship goes down the EPIRB floats to the surface. It will signal for help on contact with the water from the Coast Guard and any surrounding vessels. The VDR stays with the EPIRB so there’s no searching for the VDR to find out what happened. Inside the system is data from a variety of devices used on the ship; steering, microphones, audios, radar, etc. This allows the Coast Guard to begin their investigation right away; saving time and money. New ships now require this float free capsule. Older ships are grandfathered in. This product has become known as the black box of the marine industry like the ones used for airlines. Just think how quickly the Coast Guard could’ve learned what really happened with the Concordia when it tipped. Or if the El Faro had this device onboard. Tron 40DVR – float free capsule combines COSPAS – Sarsat & MED approved float free EPIRB & storage medium. Memory capacity of 64GB.

Signal Mate – UL 1104 LED Navigational Lights

Subchapter M will soon demand all navigation lights to be UL 1104 certified; on all US towing vessels 65′ plus. Towing vessels less than 65′ but greater than 26′ must meet ABYC A-16 standards. Now add the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Regulation MSC 253 (83) Performance Standards to the mix. This includes monitoring LED intensity and comparing COLREGs values.

Prepared to meet the challenge is Signal Mate; with their new product, Intelligent UL 1104 Certified LED Navigation Lights.  These lights communicate with a back-plane to signal the light’s status. It makes captains aware of dull/bad lights and automatically switches to a new bulb. First by turning off the light that dulls below COLREGs. Then it sends a signal to the alarm panel. What makes Signal Mate’s UL 1104 unique? All the parts are replaceable. The base, LED holder, Lens, and power hook up/termination circuit board.

Blue Aerospace – Survivor+

If you were at the Workboat Show you’ll recognize the Survivor+™ as the giant orange boot/shoe. This is a personal overboard survival system (raft). It fits on your back nice and snug inside a PFD.  The PFD is not that heavy (approximately 14 lbs), looks like a suspender life jacket with a back pack. The whole point is it’s a SOLAS approved life jacket and personal life raft in one system. The system automatically deploys once it’s immersed in water. The life vest inflates as the tethered life raft unfolds and inflates. You climb into the raft; the sea anchor automatically deploys to keep the raft downwind and stable. Once inside you bail out any water through the sleeve on the life raft floor to keep you as dry as possible. Then you zip up the canopy for further protection till help comes. To see how this works, check out this video at:

Four products

These are just 4 products from the many presented at the show.

  • MEDS is great for the cruise ship industry. However, it’s a catch-22 for them. If they buy the system and people find out, they’re afraid people won’t cruise with them. If they don’t buy the system, they could lose more people overboard.
  • VDR is the black box of the maritime industry. It can save thousands of dollars in investigative work to find out what happened to a ship; not to mention searching for the box in the first place.
  • Intelligent UL 1104 Certified LED Navigation Lights gives peace of mind. You’ll see at night, in the fog, and bad weather. And, other boats will see you as you navigate the waters.
  • Survivor+™ is waiting on approval by the Coast Guard. They’re not sure what category to put it in.

But you, as a boat owner can protect you and your crew with these items. You just need to decide how much a life is worth to you!





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