RYA presses for 'no compulsory flares' regulation

Are they soon to be a thing of the past?
John Curnow ©
Letting off flares has always been the action of last resort for sailors in distress. Now the Royal Yachting Association of Britain is pressing for their removal as a requirement for seafarers.

They are insisting that no persuasive evidence that flares have search and rescue benefits that cannot be provided by modern technology.


Having had to use flares in a remote location in the Maldives where no-one on Addu Atoll had a VHF radio and where help from the setting off of an EPIRB would have taken hours if not days, this sceptical cruising sailors receives the news with a small amount of horror. I am sure that many long range cruisers would have the same reaction.

However, it may be different in high population areas, and it is acknowledged that the coastline of Britain is very differently served compared to the coastline of the Maldives.

The RYA is pressing the MCA (Maritime & Coastguard Agency) to review the carriage requirement for pyrotechnic flares and to recognise the modern technologies that are now available for distress alerting and locating.

'In today’s modern age there is no compelling case to support the mandatory requirement of flares as a practical and useful method of initiating a distress alert and location' Stuart Carruthers RYA Cruising Manager.

EPIRBs and GPS linked DSC VHF for distress alerting and signalling lamps or EVDS (Electronic Visual Distress Signals) for final mile location provide mariners with a more effective and far less dangerous means of initiating a distress alert and more importantly a timely response.

However these modern technologies are not recognised in the current UK regulations.

'The RYA has been shown no persuasive evidence that flares have search and rescue benefits that cannot be provided by modern technology.

'Couple this with the significantly reduced disposal service for flares and the argument for continuing to mandate flares becomes unreasonable and illogical' concludes Stuart.

While they may succeed in having flares made non-compulsory, it would be a long time before this old salt could be persuaded to leave our flares at home.