VHF Radio Station License


The rules have changed recently, in the USA, for the need to license a VHF radio. But it is suggested that Recreational boaters should still apply if you boat in the coastal areas.

Marine vessels registered in the USA. and carrying radio transmitting equipment require a Station License and Call Sign issued by the FCC. These may be obtained by submitting FCC Form 506 to the FCC.

To obtain forms from the FCC, call (717) 337-1212 or write:
Federal Communications Commission 1270 Fairfield Road
Gettysburg, PA, 17325-7245

Complete Form 506, and detach the Temporary Station License from the form. Submit the remainder of the form and a check for $35 to:

Federal Communications Commission P.O. Box 358275
Pittsburgh, PA 15251-5275


Operator's License

Operation of VHF marine transceivers in U.S. waters does not require an operator's license or permit (but a Station License is required). Operation in foreign waters (including Canada and Mexico) however, usually does require a license or permit in addition to the vessel's Station License. A lifetime Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit valid in most foreign waters may be obtained for U.S. Citizens and residents by submitting Form 753 and $35 to the FCC at the address given previously.

Operation Outside the U.S.A.

If your Station License is issued by the FCC, but you also intend to operate outside the U.S.A. (including Canada and Mexico), you must file Form 753 with the FCC. You should also obtain the Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit referenced in the previous paragraph.

Canadian Department of Communications

Canadian requirements are very similar to the FCC requirements. To obtain the Canadian Department of Communications (DOC) license application or other information, contact their nearest field or regional office, or write:

Government of Canada Department of Communications 300 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, KIA OC8


Emergency (Channel 16 Use)

Channel 16 is known as the Hail and Distress Channel. An emergency may be defined as a threat to life or property. In such instances, be sure the radio is on and set to CHANNEL 16. Then use the following procedure:

1. Press the microphone push-to-talk switch and say "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. This is "(your vessel's name)".

2. Then repeat once: "Mayday, "(your vessel's name)".

3. Now report your position in latitude/longitude, or by giving a true or magnetic bearing (state which) to a well-known landmark such as a navigation aid or geographic feature such as an island or harbor entry.

4. Explain the nature of your distress (sinking, collision, aground, fire, heart attack, life-threatening injury, etc.).

5. State the kind of assistance you desire (pumps, medical aid, etc.).

6. Report the number of persons aboard and condition of any injured. 7. Estimate the present seaworthiness and condition of your vessel.
8. Give your vessel's description: length, design (power or sail), color, and other distinguishing marks. The total transmission should not exceed 1 minute.

9. End the message by saying "OVER". Release the microphone button and listen.

10. If there is no answer, repeat the above procedure. If there is still no response, try another channel.

Calling Another Vessel (Channel 16 or 9)

Channel 16 may be used for initial contact (hailing) another vessel. However, its most important use is for emergency messages. This channel must be monitored at all times except when actually using another channel. It is monitored by the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards and by other vessels. Use of channel 16 for hailing must be limited to initial contact only. Calling should not exceed 30 seconds, but may be repeated 3 times at 2-minute intervals. In areas of heavy radio traffic, congestion on channel 16 resulting from its use as a hailing channel can be reduced significantly in U.S. waters by using channel 9 as the initial contact (hailing) channel for non-emergency communications. Here, also, calling time should not exceed 30 seconds but may be repeated 3 times at 2-minute intervals.

Prior to making contact with another vessel, refer to the channel charts in this manual, and select an appropriate channel for communications after initial contact. For example, Channels 66, 69, and 70 of the U.S. VHF Charts are some of the channels available to non-commercial (recreational) boaters. Monitor your desired channel in advance to make sure you will not be interrupting other traffic, and then go back to either channel 16 or 9 for your initial contact.

When the hailing channel (16 or 9) is clear, state the name of the other vessel you wish to call and then "this is" followed by the name of your vessel and your Station License (Call Sign). When the other vessel returns your call, immediately request another channel by saying "go to", the number of the other channel, and "over. Then switch to the new channel. When the new channel is not busy, call the other vessel.

After a transmission, say "over'', and release the microphone's push-to-talk (PTT) switch . When all communication with the other vessel is completed, end the last transmission by stating your Call Sign and the word "oui'. Note that it is not necessary to state your Call Sign with each transmission, only at the beginning and end of the contact.

Remember to return to Channel 16 when not using another channel. Some radios automatically monitor Channel 16 even when set to other channels or when scanning; see your Owner's Manual.

Making Telephone Calls

To make a radiotelephone call, use a channel designated for this purpose The fastest way to learn which channels are used for radiotelephone traffic is to ask at a local marina. Channels available for such traffic are designated Public Correspondence channels on the channel charts in this manual. Some examples for USA use are Channels 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 84, 85, 86, and 87. Call the marine operator and identify yourself by your vessel's name. The marine operator will then ask you how you will pay for the call (telephone credit card, collect, etc ) and then link your radio transmission to the telephone lines.

The marine telephone company managing the VHF channel you are using may charge a link-up fee in addition to the cost of the call.

Marine Identification Numbering (MIN) Plan

To avoid telephone link-up charges, and for other benefits, you can sign up for the Marine Identification Numbering (MIN) plan available through your local telephone company. The MIN is a 10-digit number honored by all marine operators and it can only be used for ship-to-shore radiotelephone calls.

For the MIN plan in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, call NYMAR at (800) 722-6768.

For the MIN plan In California, contact Pacific Bell collect at (510) 831-4646.

In the Southern States, call the Marine Telephone Company at (305) 431-4437 for a special VHF billing code.

In other areas, contact your local telephone company. An application should be available from the local business office. Along with the completed application, you must send the phone company a copy of your vessel's Station License.

While it is possible to use your telephone credit card number, usage is decreasing in popularity because credit card numbers can easily be copied from the airwaves. It is advisable to obtain a MIN number or ask the marine operator to make the call collect.

Operating On Channels 13 And 67

Channel 13 is used at docks and bridges and by vessels maneuvering in port. Messages on this channel must concern navigation only, such as meeting and passing in restricted waters.

Channel 67 is used for navigational traffic between vessels.

By regulation, power is normally limited to 1 Watt on these channels. Your radio is programmed to automatically reduce power to this limit on these channels.


However, in certain situations it may be necessary to temporarily use a higher power. See your Owner's Manual for means to temporarily override the low-power limit on these two channels.

Prohibited Communications

The FCC prohibits the following communications:

False distress or emergency messages;
Messages to "any boat" except in emergencies and radio tests;
Messages to or from a vessel on land;
Transmission while on land;
Obscene, indecent, or profane language (potential fine of $10,000).



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