406 MHz Beacon owners should be aware that counterfeit or non-original equipment batteries are being sold for use in Cospas-Sarsat type-approved 406-MHz emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs).

Although the concern at the moment appears primarily confined to EPIRBs, there is a risk that it could expand to other products such as PLBs.

Non-approved battery packs often look very similar to original-equipment manufacturer (OEM) provided batteries and it may not be evident to the casual observer that they are non-OEM battery packs.

Whilst they are often certified by a classification society or similar body, they have not been approved by the beacon manufacturers or tested within the beacon to Cospas-Sarsat type-approval standards.

In addition, non-OEM battery packs are not always made to the same standards and do not offer the same performance in beacons.

Tests have shown a number of problems

A number of beacon manufacturers have purchased replacement EPIRB battery packs from suppliers found on the Internet and have examined and tested those battery packs, identifying in various cases a number of problems such as:

  • Battery cells non-compliant with the Cospas-Sarsat type-approval certificate.
  • Battery capacity much less than OEM batteries, resulting in decreased operational lifetime, below the specified requirement.
  • Non-approved batteries not of the same weight as the OEM battery, which may lead to instability of an EPIRB while floating in the water, resulting in decreased transmission reliability
  • A reduction in radiated signal strength
  • Short circuiting
  • Inferior replacement gaskets, seals and other components necessary to maintain the watertight integrity of the beacon.

Use original equipment battery packs

It is strongly recommended, because of the potential risks, that beacon owners use original equipment battery packs provided either by a beacon manufacturer or one of their approved service centres.

The Cospas-Sarsat Secretariat has placed the following warning on its website:

"Cospas-Sarsat type approval is contingent on the use of original equipment battery packs in a beacon. Therefore, Cospas-Sarsat recommends that beacon owners always use original equipment battery packs which have been approved as a part of the original Cospas-Sarsat beacon approval and as provided either by a beacon manufacturer or one of their approved service centres. Certain aftermarket replacement battery packs that are not approved by the beacon manufacturer have been shown to be of inferior quality and may result in safety risk and/or the failure of the beacon to function properly in a distress situation."