September 22, 2019
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    New alert system offers lifeline to small fishing boats

    August 25, 2019

    The Department of Fisheries is to introduce an island-wide mobile alert system for one-day fishing boats and other small fishing vessels.While multi-day fishing trawlers are fitted with VHF radios, there is no way to contact small fishing vessels in case of an emergency. Moreover, multi-day trawlers can only leave from designated harbours while small boats set sail from various points, making it difficult to track them. Such issues have led to the introduction of an alert system via mobile phones, the Fisheries Department stated.

    The alert system will divide the country’s coastal areas into six zones, Assistant Director H.D.P. Thisera explained. “The system will issue one general alert at 8 pm every day. This will include general information such as wind speed, wave height and weather changes. We will also send out voice messages as alerts in the event of an emergency,” he said. The purpose of dividing the country into six zones was to ensure that specific alerts can be sent to those of a specific region, Mr Thisera explained. “For example, a storm situation off the northern coast will not affect fishermen going out to see from the south. As such, the system allows us to send out alerts to that specific region, rather than sending an island-wide alert that could unnecessarily affect everyone.”

    Those who have registered for the alert system will receive messages on their phones, while they will also be given the phone numbers to contact in the event of an emergency.The service will be also extended to hotels engaging in water sports and whale watching activities, Mr Thisera added.In consultation with mobile service providers, the department has been able to increase the strength of the mobile signal used in the alerts to cover up to 30 nautical miles.

    The value of the new alert system has already been proved in the East, where it is being trialed. A small fishing vessel with a crew of three overturned on Thursday 19 nautical miles off the coast of Trincomalee. “Since they had the alert system, they were immediately able to contact the navy. All three were rescued within 30 minutes. Based on this incident, we can say that the alert system has become a success even before it has been put fully into use,” Mr Thisera observed.


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