USCG teaches that a PAN-PAN is the appropriate call for man overboard, although that could certainly be perilous for the man. I just remember this because it is a question on the exam.

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Yes, you are right. A man overboard situation does not require a Mayday call, a PAN-PAN would be the proper message.

One thing to fall off the boat into 80 degree water near shore on a nice summer day, but other than that kind of thing I cannot imagine a MOB not being a Mayday situation

A Pan-Pan might be preferable in some man overboard situations. In the case of the cruise ship as well possibly

A pan-pan sets up a plan B when plan A is take care of the situation yourself. A mayday is plan A is not working.


Rem acu tetigisti.

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Still not sure…
If someone falls off the boat and they are easily recovered, I wouldn’t be on the radio at all.
If I can’t find them, that is a real Mayday situation to be.
I have been in races twice now with fatal MOBs. Both times the CG called on 16 for everyone to be on the lookout and it was so long ago I cannot recall if they used PAN or MAYDAY. I can well see the CG using a PAN PAN call for everyone else, after all the CG isn’t sinking themselves, but not for the boat missing a man.

Little thread creeping, but remember you don’t know who is listening. This was a very sad thing to hear on the dog watch: The CG had been searching for a woman for some time and all the various assets were on the radio. A fast powerboat had hit a log at night and launched a husband and wife overboard. The husband had been recovered.
Voice on 16: How is the search going?
USCG asset: We’re thinking the woman is probably dead, we may wrap it up soon for the night.
Voice; That is my wife

Yes, but you don’t know if you can’t find/recover them until you spend valuable time trying. Immediately upon receiving notification of a MOB someone on the bridge should be on the radio making a PAN PAN call to establish contact and have people alerted in case assistance is required.

It’s relatively simple to upgrade a pan-pan to a mayday. More difficult to downgrade from a mayday to pan-pan as the cruise line PR people know.

THAT is a true fact and with airplanes too. I once tried to “un-Mayday” and found out it could not be done.

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P&O Ventura left Tenerife for Southampton Thursday, December 12, at 1400 UTC.
ETA Monday, December 16, 1800 UTC

In time for the Christmas-cruise on Tuesday… if the Biscay doesn’t decide otherwise.

Once upon a time long ago. MOB was a PAN PAN call. The logic the vessel was not at risk.
MayDay was often called but was incorrect. Who would complain anyway?
This has since changed. MayDay is now considered the appropriate call for a MOB. Life is in peril.

the ship is worth more then the people on board hence Insurance companies only wanted to know if the ship was is trouble

Well they haven’t updated the USCG deck exams if this is true. If you say Mayday in answer to that question, you will get it wrong. What makes you think this was changed long ago?

I think that is for each country to make its own decision from interpreting the ITU rules as they do with IMO stuff
Thats like the question are we required to monitor CH 16 any more?

It is probably more accurate to say the decision of calling Mayday or pan pan is up to each Master, depending on the circumstances of a man overboard. But the fact that it is much easier to upgrade a pan pan than to downgrade a mayday comes into play.

The basis for the CG exam question is evidently that an mayday is not appropriate because the vessel itself does not face immediate danger. That seem too rigid but as a practical matter in a man overboard situation a pan-pan might be more appropriate if the goal is to have other vessels stay clear but standing-by during the man overboard maneuver.

Here is the USCG Radiotelephone Handbook

The urgency signal PAN-PAN (pronounced “PAHNPAHN”) indicates the calling station has an urgent message to transmit concerning the safety of a ship, aircraft, other vehicle, or the safety of a person.

A distress signal indicating a ship, aircraft, or other vehicle is threatened by grave and imminent danger, and requires immediate assistance.

Due to a change in the international ITU Radio Regulations, on which the Dutch radio regulations are also based, “man overboard” nowadays falls under the emergency traffic, so the Mayday emergency signal. However, until now I could not find the relevant ITU article.

The emergency signal may only be used if there is a serious and immediate danger that requires immediate assistance. Someone falling overboard is in serious and immediate danger. For example, because someone can quickly become supercooled.

Mayday comes from the French "Venez m’aider’ - Come help me. The same as PAN which is derived from the word “Panne” - break down.

See also New Zealand’s Radio Handbook dated August 2016 page 11:

DISTRESS: the radio-telephone distress signal MAYDAY is used to indicate that a vessel, aircraft or person is in grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance.

Like I said national authorities dont always follow the ITU so there are differences

Any of my crew goes in, and I can’t immediately get them recovered, I’m calling MAYDAY. To hell with a PANPAN call.

I’ll let others explain to a grief stricken spouse how they could have called a MAYDAY to get extra assistance ASAP but didn’t think it was warranted? That won’t be me.

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Or, before you waste time seeing if you can immediately recover them you make a pan pan call so 20 minutes later when you call mayday help gets to you that much faster.