View Full Version : Guam Coast Guard extends its reach

06-21-2012, 12:00 AM
Jun. 17, 2012


Written by
Jerick Sablan
Pacific Sunday News

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam recently updated its radio towers in the Marianas region and they now will reach 20 nautical miles out from shore.

The new communication system, "Rescue 21," means rescue in the 21st century because it uses the latest technology to help the Coast Guard's rescue missions, said Lt. j.g. Richard Russell. Rescue 21 uses global positioning and a Very High Frequency-Frequency Modulated (VHF-FM) communications system.

The new system replaces the National Distress Response System. Its expanded frequency capacity enables greater coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, as well as other federal, state and local agencies and first responders.

Russell said the old towers had spotty communication and weren't able to reach much of the east side of the island. With the upgrade, the Coast Guard now can communicate 20 miles out -- and not only from Guam, but also Rota, Saipan and Tinian.

The new system also tracks distressed mariners when they radio the Coast Guard, thanks to GPS technology.

"We can pick up where it came from. It takes the search out of the search," Russell said.

The new system also enhances audio that may be broken or too low, helping ensure that information coming through radio communication isn't lost.

"We can play back the call and make sure we get all the information," Russell said.

Russell added there already have been successful cases using the new radio system.

"We were able to locate the distressed mariner and get a helicopter out to the location. It's already paying big dividends," Russell said.

Several boaters at the Hagta boat basin said the new system provides a sense of security.

"It makes me feel a little bit safer," said Allen Roberto, a deck hand on Island Girl II.

Tommy Sapp, who was interviewed after he returned from a recent fishing trip, said he's happy to hear the news.

"It's nice to hear they have greater capacity," Sapp said.

Russell urges boaters to keep their radios set to channel 16, because the Coast Guard listens to it 24/7.

However, Manny Duenas, the president of the Guam Fishermen's Cooperative Association, said local fishermen mainly use a different channel.

"We use channel 68 as our operational channel for the most part," Duenas said. He said he was happy to hear about the new system being used, but said he would like the Coast Guard to include channel 68.

"Many of the fishermen on Guam know to use this channel. It's hard to tell everyone to change it," Duenas said.

Duenas said the towers are long-awaited. He said there have been instances in which the Coast Guard didn't hear distress signals from the eastern side of Guam.

"We've had to bring boaters home," Duenas said.

Russell said the new system should cut down local boaters' need to use cellphones to call 911.

"We encourage mariners to use their VHF radio, because we can track where they are," Russell said.