The effective use of the VehSmart GPS device likely saved a trio of fishermen from Ecuador after their boat was attacked by robbers. The fishermen were sailing their small boat, Luis Miguel, southwest of the Santa Elena peninsula, when they were overtaken by robbers who stole their personal belongings and the boat’s motor before locking them in a storage compartment, according to the Ecuadorean Navy (DIRNEA).The fishermen were able to break out of the compartment and deploy the “panic button” on the VehSmart GPS device installed on the boat. This feature links directly to Ecuador’s National Emergency Response System, and a Coast Guard team was able to locate and rescue the fishermen within three hours. The VehSmart system is built around a small, portable device that, among other features, pinpoints the user’s location and allows anyone on the vessel to activate a distress call in case of emergency. The Luis Miguel was equipped with the GPS locator technology as part of a pilot program to install GPS systems in 4,000 small artisanal fishing vessels. The program is sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries (MAGAP) of Ecuador and is designed to provide fishermen with greater security and peace of mind against threats of piracy and the often dangerous marine environment. In addition, the VehSmart technology allows authorities to monitor the fleet’s movements to help prevent overfishing in certain areas and to protect zones that are off-limits for fishing.The GPS technology used in the Ecuadorean fishing fleet combines VehSmart’s telematics and the SmartOne satellite transmitter from Globalstar, Inc.“The installation only requires less than 15 minutes, which is a small investment to ensure someone’s safety,” said Brad Merritt, president of VehSmart. “Only vessels registered under the program receive this protection, and MAGAP is encouraging the artisanal fishing community to take the time to have the units installed as quickly as possible,” according to a statement from VehSmart. Without the GPS technology, the fishermen could have drifted for days or been lost at sea.