Eclipse Island VHF tower a marine life saver

Michael TraillAlbany Advertiser
DFES Great Southern Superintendant Wayne Green, Albany Sea Resuce's Chris Johns and Parks and Wildlife Service Distrcit Manager Peter Hartley
Camera IconDFES Great Southern Superintendant Wayne Green, Albany Sea Resuce's Chris Johns and Parks and Wildlife Service Distrcit Manager Peter Hartley

Blackspots in the radio coverage along the region’s coast are expected to be eliminated after the installation of a VHF radio repeater tower on Eclipse Island.

Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan officially launched the $70,000 tower, which has a range of about 60km, last Friday and said communication along Albany’s south coast had been intermittent in the past, failing the first responders of marine emergencies.

Albany Sea Rescue operations co-ordinator Chris Johns said the tower’s installation was a “game changer” and paid respect to the coronial inquiry launched after the deaths of two fishermen at Salmon Holes in 2015.

“It’s been an ongoing issue for many, many years, coastal communications. This was amplified by the coronial inquest and it’s been installed exceedingly quickly,” Mr Johns said.

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“We’re already enjoying some operation capacity from it, as we’re yet to experience it during a serious rescue or recovery.

“It pays great respect to the coronial inquiry and all of those souls we’ve been out there looking for or saved over the years, and their families.

“The significant thing that came from the inquiry was that we needed something throwing back at land, so when we’re off operating in areas such as The Gap, the shadows (of radio coverage) are excluded.”

Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan in a rescue vessel.
Camera IconEmergency Services Minister Fran Logan in a rescue vessel. Credit: Michael Traill

Mr Johns said the tower would allow mariners, seaborne rescuers and government agencies to stay in constant communication in an area approximately spanning Denmark and Bald Island.

“We get the lion’s share of grizzly rescues, so now we can be in touch,” he said.

“The spin-off benefit of this, as I say it’s a public channel, so everybody who is out there now has an enhanced safety factor up their sleeve.”

The minister said it was the State Government’s responsibility to ensure emergency service workers who put their lives at risk to rescue or recover others had the best available communication equipment.

Mr Logan said he had been advised the transmission quality was “crystal clear”.

“Hopefully, this means we might be able to save people’s lives, and that’s the most important thing,” he said.

“That investment has been called for, by the emergency services here in Albany and the investment has been made.”

Installation of a marine VHF repeater on Eclipse Island was one of five recommendations made last year by deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker following the inquest into the 2015 deaths of Chunjun Li and Jiaolong Zhang at Salmon Holes.

In August, Mr Johns expressed his frustration with a lack of action on building a new mobile tower near The Gap, following an April announcement of $300,000 in Federal funding for a macrocell tower at Cave Point Lighthouse.

The Advertiser understands construction of the new macrocell tower is unlikely to start this year

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