The Spanish fishing fleet is the largest in the European Union, employing approximately 80,000 sailors, most working on small vessels with few crew members. Sailors falling overboard due to a boat’s slippery deck, sudden change of direction or shift in equipment face life-threatening peril—especially without safety gear. Scio IT, a Spanish research and development company finding creative ways to use information technology, teamed with apparel giant Inditex Group, Coruna, Spain, to introduce Safe to Sea, an ocean safety system for ‘man overboard’ accidents.
Safe to Sea’s easy-to-use, ergonomic belts and exposure suits include a personal electronic sensor system tied into the vessel’s control panel. The sensor sounds an alarm when a sailor falls overboard, triggers automatic inflation of the sailor’s life vest and guides the crew to his exact location. If no other crew members are onboard, the system issues an alert over integrated VHF radio, including a mayday signal and GPS location, to nearby ships and ocean rescue authorities. “It is especially useful for the crews of small fishing boats, which account for 90 percent of man overboard incidents,” says Jaime Casals, Scio IT chief executive.