BoatU.S. concerned about impact of GPS service disruption

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Recreational boaters are warned to not rely on any Global Positioning System equipment near Cape Hatteras, N.C., or Jacksonville, Fla. from June 11 through June 20 as the Department of Defense will be conducting radio interference tests on the system, according to a release yesterday from BoatU.S.

The department believes “severe disruptions to GPS service,” could occur during the testing periods, according to a notice posted by the U.S. Coast Guard’s Navigation Center.

A “Local Notice to Mariners” was recently posted and warnings are also expected to be broadcast by the Coast Guard on VHF Ch. 16. However, BoatU.S. said it was concerned about the relatively short notice given to boaters and the timing of the tests.

“GPS navigation is widely used by recreational boaters and sometimes the only tool that gets them home safely,” said Elaine Dickinson, BoatU.S. assistant vice president of Government Affairs. “We are very concerned about the late notification and the scheduled timing during peak summer boating periods. Boaters can help spread the news that on GPS – particularly the auto-pilot function should not be relied upon during these jamming tests.”

“GPS should not be relied on for navigation by boats transiting … approximately 50-60 miles seaward” of Cape Hatteras and “out to 80 miles in the area of the Florida coast between Jacksonville and Melbourne,” according to the USCG notice.

The testing periods are:

  • Friday, June 11 – 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 13 – 8 a.m. – noon
  • Monday, June 14 – 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 17 – 9 a.m. -1 p.m.
  • Friday, June 18 – 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 19 – 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 20 – 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • The periodic tests are done to help determine the Global Positioning System’s resistance to jamming and whether cellular phones, ham radios, CB radios and other similar ultra-high wireless transmitters degrade the system’s reliability. Cell phone reception in the areas could also be affected, according to BoatU.S.

    Non-aviation related safety-of-life activities that require immediate cessation of the GPS interference tests should be reported to the USCG Navigation Center (NAVCEN), 24-hour phone line at 703-313-5900 or via email at

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