BMW car sends 'SOS' signal of ship in trouble by GPS mistake
Lifeboat's 'ship in trouble' was BMW on car ferry
A lifeboat was launched after receiving a distress signal at sea, only to discover the SOS message had come from a BMW car on a cross-channel ferry.
The Anglesey-based Moelfre lifeboat searched the sea off the Welsh coast for 3 hoursPhoto: ALAMY
9:42AM BST 14 Jun 2011
Coastguards launched the lifeboat after picking up an emergency signal four miles out at sea off the Welsh coast.
But after a three hour search operation the signal was traced to an anti-theft tracking device fitted to a BMW safely parked on the car ferry from Dublin to Liverpool.
Coastguard spokesman Mark Craddock said: "We were called by police to say a tracking device signal had been detected four miles out at sea.
"There had been a signal and then it had gone so we feared a boat could have sunk - we had to treat it as the worst possible scenario."
But after three-hour search in the darkness the crew of the Anglesey-based Moelfre lifeboat failed to find a sailor in trouble.
And coastguards realised the emergency signal came from the exact position of a P&O Dublin to Liverpool car ferry.
They discovered it was an Emergency Telematics signal from a GPS system fitted as standard into new BMW and Volvo vehicles.
Mr Craddock said: "We investigated where this signal may have come from and worked out that a Dublin to Liverpool vessel would have been at that approximate location at the time the signal was emitted.
"We now believe the Emergency Telematics signal came from a vehicle on the ferry, the European Endeavour, and was then switched off again.
"The devices go off if the car is stolen or can be triggered if the airbag goes off or can be set off by the driver if they have broken down."
Coastguards said it was the first time a rescue mission had been launched because of an anti-theft device fitted to a car safely parked on a ferry.
Mr Craddock, watch manager at Holyhead Coastguard, added: "This is a new problem for us but with more vehicles having these devices fitted it could become an issue.
"On this occasion it wasted the time and fuel of a lifeboat crew for nearly three hours."
Passengers on the P&O ferry were asked to check their GPS systems when they disembarked at Liverpool.
Dave Massey, of Moelfre Lifeboat said: "Every call we receive has to be treated as a worst case scenario.
"We were at the location where the signal was detected within 25 minutes and conducted a major search of the vicinity.
"This incident was logged as a false alarm with good intention."