Information Notice concerning the installation or use of combined PLB-AIS devices - Notice No. MCA/O/23-5124

The purpose of this notice is to inform persons dealing in maritime radiocommunications apparatus and owners of vessels, who have an interest to import or use a combined personal locator beacon and automatic identification system ('PLB-AIS').  A PLB-AIS device is intended to be used in the maritime environment for distress alerting on the standard PLB frequency 406 MHz and the internationally designated AIS channels 161.975 MHz and 162.025 MHz.

No international frameworks are currently in place which harmonises the use of PLB-AIS devices, including those defining which identities shall be programmed in these types of devices.  In this regard the regulatory and operational aspects of PLB-AIS devices are being assessed within European fora and studies are being undertaken to define how to regulate these devices in the most appropriate manner and by doing so ensuring that distress and safety communications are not jeopardised.

In the circumstances the MCA considers appropriate to withhold requests for the installation or use of PLB-AIS devices.  Therefore, as a temporary measure PLB-AIS devices are not authorised to be installed or used from on board locally registered vessels.  It is also not authorised to programme these devices with a Maltese maritime identification digit ('MID').

The MCA is following closely the studies being undertaken on PLB-AIS devices and in due course, will be considering adopting a national licensing framework which is most appropriate for Malta and which safeguards the integrity of distress and safety communications.  A public consultation process will take place prior to adopting any such licensing framework.

In this regard it should be underlined that PLB-AIS devices do not fall within the scope of the General Authorisations (Radiocommunications Apparatus) Regulations (SL399.40) and their installation or use constitutes a breach to the Electronic Communications (Regulation) Act (Cap. 399).

This notice shall therefore remain in force unless advised otherwise in writing by the MCA on its website.  The MCA may be contacted on +356 21336840 or to provide any clarifications on the use of PLB-AIS devices in Malta.​