How to make a Mayday call on a boat in Australia

We hope none of our clients or readers every have to make an actual Mayday call in their lifetime. But if you’re on the water, it’s important to know exactly what to do if an emergency does arise.

That’s why we’ve taken time out to list the procedure for making a Mayday call in Australia.

When is it appropriate to use a distress call?

A distress call or Mayday should only be used if your boat is in ‘grave or imminent danger’.

Emergencies such as a fire onboard, a sinking boat or any situation where immediate support is required all count.

A distress call is considered more important than any other transmission, and may only be authorised by the skipper, or whoever is in charge of safety on your boat.

What to do in an emergency

First off, we recommend checking the emergency frequency channels in your area. These are usually listed on the Department of Transport website in your state or territory.

Just Google ‘boat emergency channel’ and the name of your area to find it.

If you are in an emergency, follow these steps:

  1. Find the appropriate emergency channel, and stay on it, unless the receiver asks you to switch.
  2. Identify the kind of assistance you require.
  3. Follow the directions given by the rescuer.
  4. Make sure to follow the instructions of the rescuing vessel.
  5. Alert Sea Rescue if your circumstances change, or if the danger passes.

How do I make a Mayday call?

Use this script for making a Mayday call:

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

This is [insert the name of your vessel or call sign] – spoken x3 times

Mayday [insert the name of your vessel or call sign]

My position is [insert your vessel’s position]

My vessel is [describe the nature of your emergency and the assistance required]

I have [insert number of crew onboard and other relevant information]

How often is a Mayday call repeated?

You can repeat a Mayday call as often as needed, until it is answered. If you’re not attracting attention on a distress channel, use any other channel that is likely to be noticed.

Every hour an half hour, on the dot, 3 minutes of radio silence is observed on distress channels. This is to improve the chance of any weak distress call being heard.

What if I hear a Mayday call?

If you happen to hear a Mayday call that is not being answered by a coast station, you can either assist the caller directly, or pass the message onto a Sea Rescue.

Even if you do choose to assist, pass information about the emergency situation onto a coast station, so they at least know what is happening and can advise if the situation requires their help instead.

What if I don’t think a Mayday call is necessary?

The Pan Pan call can be used if a Mayday call is unnecessary. For example, if a mechanical breakdown occurs, if a person is overboard or if someone has a medical emergency.

The Pan Pan call script is:

Pan Pan, Pan Pan, Pan Pan

Hello all stations. Hello all stations. Hello all stations.

This is [insert the name of your vessel or call sign] – spoken x3 times

My position is [insert your vessel’s position]

I require [describe the assistance needs and other relevant information]

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Information in this article was sourced from the WA Department of Transport website and is intended as a guide only. For comprehensive marine emergency procedures we recommend consulting a boating or sailing expert.