• Kyodo News

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More than 90 percent of marine emergency radio signals transmitted from vessels have been false alarms, mainly caused by mistakes stemming from equipment operational errors or poor maintenance, data compiled by the Japan Coast Guard showed Friday.

According to the data, among the 385 signals sent via EPIRBs (emergency position indicating radio beacons) last year, 367, or 95 percent, were false alarms. Of the 424 alerts made in 2007, 399, or 94 percent, were made in error.

Among the total false alarms made between 1999 and 2007, 42 percent were due to operational mistakes, while 38 percent were blamed on mechanical trouble or poor maintenance.

Most vessels operating at sea carry at least one EPIRB located in a convenient location. When activated, the device transmits its location to rescue authorities via the Global Positioning System. Many EPIRBs are mounted outside ship bridges.

If a vessel so equipped sinks, the EPIRB is supposed to automatically activate and detach and float.

Because there are many occasions when EPIRBs are accidentally activated, or transmit due to faulty maintenance, the coast guard has ended up ordering rescue units to travel more than 1,000 km for unnecessary search activities.

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