WHAT TYPES OF
MARINE VHF RADIOS ARE ACCEPTABLE?
The power output of your
radio must not be more than 25 watts. You must also be able
to lower the power of your radio to one watt or less. Your
radio must be able to transmit on 156.8 MHz (Channel 16),
156.3 MHz (Channel 6) and at least one other channel.
radio must be type accepted or certified by the FCC. You can
tell a type accepted radio by the FCC ID label on the radio.
You may look at a list of acceptable radios at any FCC field
office, FCC headquarters, or FCC Web Site.
MAY I INSTALL
AND SERVICE MY MARINE VHF RADIO BY MYSELF?
You may install your
radio in your ship by yourself. All internal repairs or
adjustments to your radio must be made by or under the
supervision of an FCC-licensed technician holding at least a
General Radiotelephone Operator License. It is recommended
that the radio be inspected by the service person when
WHAT MARINE VHF
CHANNELS MAY I USE?
The marine VHF channels
are divided into operational categories, based on the types
of messages that are appropriate for each channel, and are
available for the shared use of all boaters. You must choose
a channel which is available for the type of message you
want to send. Except where noted, channels are available for
both ship-to-ship and ship-to-coast messages.
Marine VHF Radio Channels
contains a list of the marine VHF channels and their
designated uses. The channels listed in the table are the
only channels you may use, even if your radio has more
HOW DO I MAKE A
CALL USING VOICE CALLING on VHF?
Maintain your watch.
Whenever your boat is underway, the radio must be turned on
and be tuned to Channel 16 except when being used for
Try one watt first if the station being called is within a
few miles. If there is no answer, you may switch to higher
stations. Call a coast station on
its assigned channel. You may use Channel 16 when you do not
know the assigned channel.
Calling other ships.
Call other ships on Channel 16. You may call on ship-to-ship
channels when you know that the ship is listening on both a
ship-to-ship channel and Channel 16. NOTE: To do this the
ship has to have two separate receivers.
Limits on calling.
You must not call the same station for more than 30 seconds
at a time. If you do not get a reply, wait at least two
minutes before calling again. After three calling periods,
wait at least 15 minutes before calling again.
After contacting another station on Channel 16, change
immediately to a channel which is available for the type of
message you want to send.
Identify, in English, your station by your FCC call sign, ship
name, the state registration number or official number at
the beginning and end of each message.
COMMUNICATIONS ARE PROHIBITED?
YOU MUST NOT TRANSMIT
False distress or
obscene, indecent, or profane words or meaning.
signals, or messages on channel 16, except in an emergency
or if you are testing your radio (these are messages not
addressed to a particular station), or
When your ship is on
land (for example, while the ship is on a trailer).
DO I HAVE TO
KEEP A RADIO LOG?
You do not have to keep
a radio log.
DO I NEED A COPY
OF THE RULES?
Voluntary boaters are
not required to keep a copy of the FCC's rules. Regardless
of whether or not you have a copy of the rules, however, you
are responsible for compliance. If you would like a copy of
the rules, refer to Section VI.
DO I HAVE TO
MAKE MY SHIP STATION AVAILABLE FOR INSPECTION?
Your station and your
station records (station license and operator license or
permit, if required) must be shown when requested by an
authorized FCC representative.
WHAT HAPPENS IF
I VIOLATE THE RULES?
If it appears to the FCC
that you have violated the Communications Act or the rules,
the FCC may send you a written notice of the apparent
violation. If the violation notice covers a technical radio
standard, you must stop using your radio. You must not use
your radio until you have had all the technical problems
fixed. You may have to report the results of those tests to
the FCC. Test results must be signed by the commercial
operator who conducted the test. If the FCC finds that you
have willfully or repeatedly violated the Communications Act
or the rules, your authorization to use the radio may be
revoked and you may be fined or sent to prison.
HOW DO I CALL
ANOTHER SHIP USING VOICE CALLING?
Make sure your radio
Speak directly into
the microphone in a normal tone of voice -- clearly --
Select Channel 16
(156.8 MHz) and listen to make sure it is not being used.
NOTE: Channel 9 (156.45 MHz) may be used by recreational
vessels for general-purpose calling. This frequency should
be used whenever possible to relieve congestion on Channel
When the channel is
quiet, press the microphone button and call the ship you
wish to call. Say "[name of ship being called] THIS IS [your
ship's name and call sign (if applicable)]."
Once contact is made
on Channel 16, you must switch to a ship-to-ship channel.
The ship-to- ship channels are listed in the chart on page 6
of this Fact Sheet.
are completed, each ship must give its call sign or ship
name and switch to Channel 16.
HOW DO I CALL
ANOTHER SHIP USING DSC?
Ships whose radios are
fitted with DSC will be watching VHF Channel 70, as well as
Channel 16. Channel 70 is exclusively used for digital
The DSC is equipped with appropriate
alarms to announce that a call has been received. Your radio
operators manual should describe all of the available
features and procedures for making and receiving calls.
Generally, you must know the MMSI
number of the ship that you want to call, but if you suspect
that the ship has DSC you can send an all ships call using
low power first to a geographic area which only includes the
intended vessel (coordinates are selected by operator prior
to sending the call, check operators manual).
When you are in distress you can send
a distress call to all stations. Other ships will
acknowledge the call only after waiting to see if a coast
station answers first. These acknowledgements will be on
Channel 16. Only if no coast station has answered your call
within a few minutes will another ship answer.
Certain cautions should
Do not send a distress
call as a test. Severe penalties can result if false
distress alerts are transmitted and not cancelled by the
Do not under any
circumstances transmit a DSC distress relay call on receipt
of a DSC distress alert from another ship on VHF or MF
channels. In this case, you must listen on Channel 16 for 5
minutes. If no acknowledgement is noticed or no traffic is
heard, acknowledge the alert by radiotelephony on Channel 16
and inform the RCC (Coast Radio Station, or Coast Guard).
HOW DO I PLACE A
CALL THROUGH A PUBLIC COAST STATION?
Boaters may make and
receive telephone calls to and from any telephone with
access to the nationwide telephone network by utilizing the
services of Public Coast Stations. Calls can be made to
other ships or telephones on land, sea, and in the air.
MAKING SHIP TO
Select the public
correspondence channel desired.
LISTEN to see if the
channel is busy (i.e., speech, signaling tones, or busy
If not busy, say, for
example, "Pleasure craft [name of ship] calling [name of
Public Coast Station] on Channel XX.
If busy, wait until
the channel clears or switch to another channel.
When a coast station
operator answers, say, "This is [name of ship and ships
phone or billing number if assigned] placing a call to [city
and phone number desired]." Give the operator billing
information. If billing information for your ship has not
been registered, the operator will ask for additional
identification for billing purposes.
At completion of call
say, "[Name of ship] OUT."
TO SHIP CALLS
To receive public Coast
Station calls on VHF-FM frequencies, the receiver must be in
operation on the proper channel. Coast stations will call on
156.8 MHz (channel 16) unless you have Ringer Service (which
requires a second receiver).
SHIP TO SHIP
Contacts between ships
are normally made directly but you can go through your coast
station using the same procedure as ship to shore calls.
WHAT ARE THE
MARINE EMERGENCY SIGNALS?
The three spoken
international emergency signals are:
When using an
international emergency signal, the appropriate signal is to
be spoken three times prior to the message.
You must give any
message beginning with one of these signals priority over
WHAT IS THE
MARINE DISTRESS PROCEDURE?
Speak slowly --
clearly -- calmly.
Make sure your radio
Select VHF Channel 16
button and say: "MAYDAY --MAYDAY-- MAYDAY."
Say "THIS IS [your
Say "MAYDAY [your ship
Tell where you are:
(what navigational aids or landmarks are near).
State the nature of
Give number of persons
aboard and conditions of any injured.
seaworthiness of your ship.
Briefly describe your
ship (meters, type, color, hull).
Say: I will be
listening on Channel 16."
End message by saying
"THIS IS [your ship name or call sign] OVER."
button and listen. Someone should answer. If not, repeat
call, beginning at Item 3 above.
Information (Forms, Fees, Rules)
FCC Forms Distribution
Center (800) 418-FORM (3676)
system -- call (202) 418-0177 from the handset of your fax
machine. Follow the recorded instructions to have FCC Form
159 (document retrieval number 3000159), FCC Form 605
(document retrieval number 3060500), or FCC Form 605
(document retrieval number 3000605) sent directly to your
For downloading at
All details concerning
radio service eligibility, application procedures, operating
requirements, and equipment standards can be found in the
FCC Rules. Voluntary ships are not
required to carry a copy of the rules.
Maritime Service Rules -
47 C.F.R. Part 80
Operator License Rules -
47 C.F.R. Part 13
The rules are available
for a fee from the
Government Printing Office at (202) 512-1803.