If the performance of radar reflectors and other safety gear is still so poor, why is no independent organisation testing them out?


A few years ago I did a test on man overboard gear and our panel of testers came away with deep reservations about using the sling method of recovery. When I looked into this afterwards I found that although the RORC recommends a Lifesling or similar, it had never tested one. No official body in the UK had ever independently tested any MOB recovery methods.

Ever since then I’ve thought what a pity it is we don’t have such an independent organisation to evaluate the effectiveness of safety equipment we all buy in good faith.

I thought about an independent test panel again when I read the conclusions of the  cms_resources/Ouzo.pdf/?p=234>MAIB’s investigation into the deaths of the Ouzo crew. They report of the octahedral radar reflector that ‘overall performance is poor’ and that there was only ‘a 50% probability [it] would have been seen by the ship’.

As far as I know, all the radar reflectors you can buy for a yacht are somewhere between poor and better than nothing. But it’s only as far as I know. The last major test I can think of was done 12 years ago by  safety/Studies/radar_reflector_test.htm>US Sailing They found that all were marginal – except the radar flag, which was totally useless – and concluded: ‘none of the reflectors would be more than marginally useful in offshore conditions where S-band radar were being used, except perhaps in calm sea conditions’.

It ought to be time to repeat this test, and to look closely at products such as the Sea-Me active radar target enhancer, which have come on the market since this test was done. Isn’t it time somebody in the marine industry set up an independent and authoritative body to properly test reflectors, liferafts, lifejackets and the like?