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Radio licenses for US vessels

Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 4:09 pm
by rgthom
Per the R2AK equipment requirements (and common sense) all participating craft need VHF radios. Any modern VHF will have DSC, which needs an assigned MMSI number to operate. The boats will be classified as vessels sailing foreign waters and communicating with foreign radio stations, so they will be "voluntarily equipped, but required to have a licensed radio station on board".

Likewise the radio operator needs an operator's license for foreign waters, but it can be the Restricted Radiotelephone Operator's Permit which does not require an exam.

The license, permit, and MMSI need to be obtained through FCC and pay FCC fees. The free MMSI services like BoatUS are not valid because they issue MMSI only recognized in the US.

Have I got this right?


Re: Radio licenses for US vessels

Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 2:39 pm
by Jamie Orr
I only have a hand held, non-DSC VHF, but your question got me interested. Last year, when going outside VHF range, I bought a personal locator beacon and registered that, but for the inside passage the DSC appears to be at least as good.

The Pat's Boating website suggested contacting government agencies direct for regulations and such, and gave a toll free number for the FCC, 1-888-CALLFCC.

My old iCom isn't waterproof, doesn't float, and as mentioned doesn't have DSC. If it didn't work so darn well I could justify a new radio with all the bells and whistles!


Re: Radio licenses for US vessels

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2014 11:18 am
by rgthom
Thanks Jamie. I called the FCC number, they say yes - the boat needs a Ship Station License and the operator needs a Restricted Radio Telephone Operator permit if the boat is going to Canada. The MMSI also needs to be assigned by FCC, the BoatUS numbers will not be recognized by Canadian Coast Guard. The penalty is a fine for using the radio without the licenses, I don't know how big a risk that is.

For collision avoidance, I would say the minimum is a passive radar reflector and a handheld non-DSC VHF. Probably not much risk of fines if the boat does not have a fixed radio.

A full 25W fixed radio with mast mount antenna gives more communication distance, but costs money, weight (including battery), and regulatory hassle.

Add DSC and you get a lot of added safety in case a rescue is needed. DSC is included in all new VHF, but the hassle is the international MMSI.

Add an AIS receiver for a few hundred dollars more and you get the big advantages of collision track monitoring and being able to hail the ship by name.

Lastly, a full AIS transponder gets you recognized by the big ships on their display. Seems like too much for a small boat, but I know people who have this. It costs even more money, but the power consumption of the transponders is low so no additional battery requirements.

What are other teams doing?

Re: Radio licenses for US vessels

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2014 12:22 pm
by simeoniii
Team Noddy's Noggins (Stage 1)

I got an FCC MMSI number and Radio Service Code SA Ships Station License for Noddy last year. My VHF has DSC and I planned on cruising Canadian waters.

It cost me $160 for a 10-year license.
I did it all on-line. First you have to get a FRN number, then fill out and submit a FCC Form 605 as an individual. It's all a bit confusing but if Rick was able to get through on the phone, maybe they would be able to walk you through it.

The Radio Service Code for a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit is RR

A few years ago when I registered my 406 MHz PLB Locator beacon with NOAA there was a password mix-up and those folks were very easy to work with.

I'm frustrated that I can't use my personal SPOT tracking device that I've already paid an annual tracking fee etc. for and am required to ante up to the race committee for the $50, with a $200 deposit, to use someone else's. It may be the only way to get everyone to integrate on the same tracking screen, but I don't think so. On the WaterTribe's Everglades Challenge they use personal SPOT devices and integrate each participant's shared page into a master page.

Best wishes...

Re: Radio licenses for US vessels

Posted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 9:21 pm
by Tsunamichaser
After reading this post, and having already been in discussion on this topic with my race partner, I decided to dig in to the issue a little. Want to get totally confused about Canadian law on this read If you can't follow it, try the french version. Also, I think it includes not only boats and ships but also spacecraft. HPV flying saucer anyone? Lots of info also on kayaker forums on this too. Rules seem different for handheld versus fixed ship's station. Seems like nobody checks, ok to have one to listen to weather on, transmission causes issue with license (operator and station), Coast Guard won't ask if you make a legitimate distress call just don't abuse it or go all potty talk on the radio. So my conclusion is one of confusion. One issue may be the impossibility of getting a station license. Many on the boats entering won't be able to - maybe. This is probably one of those issues that the race organizer needs to get a ruling/standard procedure requirement from Canada on so we can all comply. ....and Jake said there'd be no rules for this race! Now who wants to tackle fishing license regs?

Re: Radio licenses for US vessels

Posted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 9:29 pm
by Tsunamichaser
More on this topic can be found at ... 1610.htm#7

Interestingly their own link to rules and regs (Radiotelephone Practices and Procedures Regulations) about this is broken. Below is the excerpt on VHF radios

Marine VHF Radio
VHF Radio

Marine VHF radio is the recommended means of issuing a distress alert. If you have a marine VHF radio, keep it tuned to channel 16.

Know where you are at all times and be prepared to describe your location accurately. In case of grave and imminent danger (for example, your boat is taking on water and you are in danger of sinking or capsizing) use channel 16 and repeat "MAYDAY" three times. Then give the name of your vessel and its position, the nature of your problem and the type of assistance needed.


Channel 16 is used for EMERGENCY and CALLING purposes only. If possible, take your conversation to a working frequency once you have called another vessel on channel 16.
Anyone who uses a VHF radio must follow the procedures described in the VHF Radiotelephone Practices and Procedures Regulations. Currently, all VHF radio operators are required to have a Restricted Operator's Certificate (ROC) with maritime qualifications. Canada recognizes the American Certificate.
For more information on the ROC, contact the Canadian Power & Sail Squadrons (CPS) toll-free at: 1-888-277-2628.

Visitors from a country other than the United States should contact Industry Canada for more information.

Re: Radio licenses for US vessels

Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 6:19 am
by JollyRoger
I have been off the forum for a while for work. Tsunamichaser- sorry for not getting back with you. BTW what is your Team name?
Appreciate this thread. Looking forward for some clarity. And have not even checked and the fishing yet so thanks for bringing that up too.
I will be in a very small expedition craft, plan on just the handheld VHF but I do have a PLB and 2 personal spots. (they do fail). Which brings up another question. What if a racers rented SPOT fails right after the start and they continue on and win the race without being tracked? Sorry that is off subject.
Back to work, breaks over. Roger

Re: Radio licenses for US vessels

Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 6:46 am
by Tsunamichaser
Tsunamichaser = The Sea Runners. I second your concern about SPOTS breaking or going off line or sort of not working. It happened to me while sailing from Sausalito CA to Hilo HI a couple of years back. The folks tracking us suddenly got concerned. We had no awareness out at sea where we were safe and having a wonderful time - the little lights kept blinking per norm. Luckily we were only a couple hundred miles out and made a call home a few days afterwards so the coast guard never mobilized - good thing.

Re: Radio licenses for US vessels

Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 10:35 am
by rgthom
Tsunamichaser - are you US or Canadian? My understanding is that boats visiting from the US are OK meeting US licensing requirements, meaning boat station license and operators permit. FCC advice to me was that form 605 gets you a station license, which Simeon has done successfully. What is making you think this may be impossible for some of the boats?


Re: Radio licenses for US vessels

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:51 pm
by Tsunamichaser
I'm Canadian but live in the US and will be racing in a home built boat built in the US. The issue is in order to get a Radio Station License from the FCC you need an official ship no. My team can probably convince someone to give us that (State registration number) for a 17 foot catamaran but what about the guy racing on a paddle board?