Writer seeking help... can a ship lose ALL comms?

I reckon I only need a couple of hours to do dastardly deeds in.

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But “satellite messengers” do…


Yes, the fact that the vessel disappears electronically just starts a ticking dramatic clock. Google LRIT and SSAS. Put the vessel at Point Nemo, wham hard to get to for responders. Submarine get-away vessel. Oops see “assault on a queen”.


Ah! Maybe throw in some AIS and/or GPS spoofing to lead people astray?

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I had to cycle the power of our LRIT a couple of times. If the CG doesn’t see a report for 24 hrs they will email the company. I assume it’s an automatic process. Otherwise it transmits every 6 hours.

Okay but you know that it’s an emergency distress signal, so if it’s activated and the ship is “dark”, someones going to come have a look see. The Coast Guard gets those signals in just a few minutes.

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Right. It would certainly help if the saboteur were one of the Engineers. Although depending on the size of the yacht there may only be one or two true engineers on the crew.

Cutting SatComm could be as easy as pulling/cutting the antenna feed cables into the switch. Most of the IT cabinets I’ve seen are unfortunately enough of a rats nests that simply swapping cables around would take even a knowledgeable ET hours to un-fuck.

As for the radios with dual power supplies like @Kennebec_Captain 's diagram shows, if the engineer isn’t in on it, he should know that system well enough to re-close breakers pretty quickly.

One thing that comes to mind is that unlike most redundancy-driven drillship designs, yachts are more likely to have all of their antenna in close proximity up top. Take out the comms mast and you likely took out all of the transmit/receive abilities that aren’t handheld.

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Side note: I think the activeness of this thread is evidence that I am not the only one who has considered nefarious plot-lines during idle moments at at sea…


Nasty trick - stick a pin through the coax antenna cables. Eventually someone will figure it out, but it would take awhile.


On the ship I am most familiar with that AC/DC power supply is located near the GMDSS but in a separate room. Aside from the power supply that room also has some other comms related gear. Both the power for the SAT and cable run for dish antenna for the internet goes through there as does the power supply for the LRIT, the antenna tuner for MF/HF.

It’s a convenient place for cable runs etc so that’s where they went… A central location of some mischief perhaps.

It’s sort of an electrical distribution room as both AC and DC come in and 24 volt supply to leaves. Also has some comms cables.

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It would be fairly simple for a knowledgeable saboteur to destroy enough antennas and EPIRBs to render a ship without communication. Certain types of ships have more antennas in a wider variety of places than others though. I think @Klaveness idea is the simplest, a basic jamming field.

You need to work for Hollywood!

Knock out the antennas and destroy the EPIRBs. It’s not unreasonable to assume that there are no portable satellite phones onboard and in the middle of the ocean with no other vessels around hand-held VHF radios are useless. They have a range of 5 miles on high power.

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Im working my way through some scenarios where keeping the crew alive is a better option than just offing them all and having a chopper fly in with your terrorist buddies unless Steven Seagal is your cook.

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This is simple just put Quint in the book with a baseball bat and no Maydays will ever be called.


Ice build up on the antennas can snap them off in a rough sea, but not the big satellite antennas

The required Inmarsat satellite phones are not rated to work above 60 North or South. The Iridium Satellite phones do not meet IMO officially required equipment standards, but they work everywhere.

A severe lightning strike that fries all the bridge electronics is the most plausible loss of all comms.

Lightning is very rare in high latitudes, and virtually unheard of during winter. But a severe lightning strike followed by ice breaking the antennas off in a storm might be semi-plausible.

Severe sun spot activity might also cause the loss of all comms.

Maybe North Korea could set off an EMP in space over the ships position that would fry all the ships electronics.

If that hasn’t changed yet they’re working on it. Or maybe it’s V-sat…

Again, huge gratitude to you for all this. As a newbie I’m limited to the number of replies I can give or the number of people I can tag, otherwise I’d be thanking you all individually.

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Please post the book and where to buy when you finish it.


A spoiler alert here. I had an iridium phone in my cabin and it came complete with the car kit and mains charger. The free fall lifeboat was fitted with accessory plug to power it and the solar panel was sufficient to power it indefinitely.
The only occasion I had to use it was in Brazil but sat Comms can be a problem in Tokyo Bay.

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If you are writing about events on a ship but you don’t k now anything about ships, the availability or not of communications is the least of your worries.

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Four or five years ago or so a car ship did lose all comms. Never heard the full story, only the general outlines which left a lot of questions.

The fuel tank (I assume HFO) for SSG (Ship’s service generator) ran out and the generator stopped. Both he stand-by generators were lined-up to run off the same tank so the other two either didn’t start or started and quit.

The engineers tried to restart one of the generators but only succeeded in using up all the starting air. Everything was evidently sucking air. The emergency diesel generator (EDG) came on line but soon stopped because of a clogged fuel filter.

The GMDSS quit working after the batteries ( 6 hours?) ran out.

At that point the ship was not able to communicate. Before the batteries ran out on the GMDSS they had requested tug assistance. The tug brought some spare diesel fuel filters and the ship was able to start the EDG and pump up the start air tanks for the SSGs and main engine.

Dead in the water a couple days. Almost doesn’t seem possible but it did in fact happen.