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Marine Radio Operation

Marine Radio Operation

A marine radio operator certificate is required to transmit using VHF and HF radio. If you haven't yet got your VHF marine radio operators certificate do so now, you never know when you are going to need it. Oh! and learn the Phonetic Alphabet ASAP (see below).


Most of what's covered in this Tassie video is applicable for Victoria.

Marine Radios

A marine radio is:

  • A radio operating on VHF marine radio channels
  • A radio operating on MF/HF marine radio frequencies
  • A radio operating on 27MHz marine radio channels

Marine Radio Victoria replaces Coast Radio Melbourne and provides a marine distress and emergency monitoring system for Victorian Coastal waters. Marine Radio Victoria uses a new VHF coastal network completed in 2017.

MF/HF radio for longer range communications is based in Charleville. Charleville Radio (VMC) monitors HF distress channels 24/7 and provides weather information services.

27 MHz radio is no longer recommended for marine use. Its broadcasting and reception is not as reliable as VHF and it is not consistently monitored along the Victorian coastline.

Emergency Channels

Distress and urgency communications can be made on the following channels:

Radio type Channel/frequencies
VHF 16 (67 alternative)
27 MHz 88 (86 alternative)
HF (frequency) 4125, 6215 and 8291 kHz

VHF Marine Radios

VHF marine radios are a great asset to all who use them. They are not chat lines however, and should be used for working messages only. Misuse of the equipment could disrupt other users within the area. All VHF radio users are legally required to hold an operators licence and he vessel to which the radio is fitted must have a ship radio licence. A 'station' is a term for a VHF Radio. As a general rule listen to the channel for 30 seconds before transmitting to ensure it is not already in use.

VHF Marine Radio Channels

VHF Channel Purpose
16 International Distress, safety and calling
6 Primary Inter ship
8, 72, 77 Inter ship
12, 14 Port Operations
67 Small Craft safety
M, M2 Marina Special Licence
2, 24, 26, 28 Ship to shore (public correspondence)
6, 67, 73 Search and Rescue Co-ordination

VHF Marine Radio Channels

Digital Selective Calling (DSC)
and Mobile Maritime Service Identity (MMSI)

VHF radios that are DSC enabled transmit a range of vessel identification information at the press of a button. This includes location information if connected to a global positioning system (GPS). If linked, search and radio agencies are able to get a good fix on your location, improving your chances of being located.

A DSC enabled radio must be linked to a Mobile Maritime Service Identity (MMSI) number for full functionality. A MMSI is a unique nine digit number that is entered into certain marine radio communications equipment, e.g. your DSC capable VHF radio. When using this equipment to send a distress alert, or to indicate some other emergency, the number assists emergency services to identify you and/or your vessel.

The MMSI number is issued by AMSA and applicants must hold a minimum of an Australian Waters Qualification radio certificate. See About Maritime Mobile Service Identity Information for why you need a MMSI, and how to apply for one.

Note: Best practice is to connect your boat's GPS unit to you VHF radio. Then the DSC transmission can automatically include your GPS location.

VHF Signals

The range of VHF is line of sight and has an Inter-ship range of 25-40 kilometres. Ship to shore range is about 50 kilometres. The dual watch (D/W) facility allows you to monitor two channels via switching. Do not transmit on dual watch. Digital selective calling uses CRS but requires an additional kit for the radio set.

The capture effect is when a receiver within range of two stations will receive only the more powerful or closer signal, the other signal will be lost.

27 MHz Marine Radio Channels

27 MHz Marine Radio Channels

Aerials

Aerial should be high and upright and clear of other aerials by at least 1 metre. An emergency aerial should also be carried.

Control of Communication

Ship to shore - coast radio station
Inter-ship - station calling
Search and Rescue - Vessel in distress, relay station, Coastguard, on scene vessel / aircraft

Duration of Calls

Test Call / Radio Check  - 10 sec
Calling on Channel 16  - 1 min
Calling again on Channel 16  - 3 min
Listen on channel before calling  - 30 sec

Distress Calls

Marine Radio Victoria and some volunteer services monitor VHF Channels 16 and 67. Each station has an obligation to respond to a distress call: write down time, name, position, nature of distress, no of people on board and additional information.

If monitoring service says 'wait' this means they will respond within 10 minutes. Any longer than that should be given a reason prior. Only repeat things three times if it is a distress call. Other wise use their name once and your name twice. Distress calls should make the following 7 points in order:

  1. Distress call
  2. Identity
  3. Position (Note that the position is given in geographical area as distance 'from object' not 'to object' when working out bearing. Otherwise use Latitude and Longitude)
  4. Nature of distress
  5. Information for search and rescue
  6. Invitation to reply
Message Meaning
Mayday (Distress)

Definition: When a vessel or person is in grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance. fire, accident damage, lee shore situation (under lee shore is when you are sheltered by the shore), diver not surfaced, man lost overboard, person is gravely ill. Example:

MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY.
This is Evelyn Rose, Evelyn Rose, Evelyn Rose

MAYDAY Evelyn Rose.

My position is: 180 degrees, one mile from buoy number 1.

I am sinking and require immediate assistance

Four crew members on board, all safety equipment
and EPIRB at 406 MHz

Mayday Relay

Definition: Mayday relays are transmitted when the station in distress cannot itself transmit a distress signal or when, although not in a position to assist a distress message is heard that has not been acknowledged. Example: 

MAYDAY RELAY, MAYDAY RELAY, MAYDAY RELAY.
This is Boat Fulmar, Boat Fulmar, Boat Fulmar

MAYDAY Evelyn Rose.

Position is: 180 degrees, one mile from buoy number 1.

Boat sinking and requires immediate assistance

Four crew members on board, all safety equipment
and EPIRB at 406 MHz

Pan Pan

Definition: When a station has a very urgent message to transmit concerning safety of a ship, aircraft or person. Example:

PAN PAN, PAN PAN, PAN PAN

Hello all stations, Hello all stations, Hello all stations
This is Evelyn Rose, Evelyn Rose, Evelyn Rose

My position is: 180 degrees, one mile from buoy number 1.

I have been in a collision and require assistance of a tug.

Note: Pan Pan Medico no longer exists. Just use PAN PAN.

Seelonce Mayday

Definition: Imposing radio silence by controlling station

Seelonce Distress

Definition: Radio Silence issued by other station
Example:

MAYDAY - SEELONCE MAYDAY,
SEELONCE MAYDAY, SEELONCE MAYDAY.
This is Severn Radio, Severn Radio, Out

Seelonce Prudonce

Definition: SEELONCE PRUDONCE is, or should be, announced when continuous silence is no longer required, when other brief communications are allowed on condition that the operators listen carefully before communicating to avoid interference when the frequencies are required by the stations involved in the rescue operations.

Seelonce Feenee

Definition: Stations not participating in the rescue operations may not transmit on the frequencies being used for distress communications before the controlling station announces SEELONCE FEENEE.

Securite

Securite, Securite, Securite
(pronounced SAY-CURE-E-TAY)

Hello all stations, Hello all stations, Hello all stations
This is Evelyn Rose, Evelyn Rose, Evelyn Rose

My position is: 180 degrees, one mile from buoy number 1.

My engine has broken down and I am anchoring in a southbound traffic lane, Request ships keep clear, over.

 

NAME OF SHIP.......................
CALL SIGN...................................

 
DISTRESS TRANSMITTING PROCEDURES
(For use only when Immediate Assistance required)
 
1.Ensure transmitter is switched to VHF Channel 16.
 
2. If possible
transmit two tone Alarm Signal for 1/2 to 1 minute.
 
3. Then say:
 
MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY
THIS IS ..........(Ship's name or call sign 3 times)..........
MAYDAY

followed by ship's name or call sign
 
POSITION ...............................................
 
Nature of distress ....................................

Aid required ...............................
OVER
 
4. Listen for a reply and if none repeat above procedure, particularly during the 3-minute silence period commencing at each hour and half-hour.
 
Example - If possible Alarm Signal followed by:
MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY.
This is EVELYN ROSE, EVELYN ROSE, EVELYN ROSE
MAYDAY, EVELYN ROSE
 
Position: 38 20.463 South 144 52.308 East.
I am on fire and require immediate assistance. OVER.

Marine Radio Qualifications

The Australian Waters Qualification (AWQ) is the minimum mandatory qualification you must have to operate a VHF marine radio. Learn about the Australian Waters Qualification on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) website.

The Office of Maritime Communications at the Australian Maritime College (AMC) is responsible for the management of Marine Radio Operators Certificates in Australia.

Marine radio qualifications and The Marine Radio Operator's Handbook are available through the AMC at amc.edu.au/industry/omc.

In an emergency, anyone aboard the vessel is permitted to use the radio(s).

Common Terminology

Radio Command Meaning
All after
Used after the proword 'SAY AGAIN' to request a repetition of a portion of a message.
All before
Used after the proword 'SAY AGAIN to request a repetition of a portion of a message.
Correct
Reply to repetition of a message that has been proceded by the proword's READ BACK FOR CHECK  when it has been correctly repeated.
Correction
spoken during the transmission of a message means - An error has been made in this transmission. Cancel the last word or group. The correct word or group follows.
In Figures
The following numeral or-group of numerals are to be written as figures.
In Letters  
The following numeral or group of numerals are to be written in letters as spoken.
I Read Back
If the receiving station is doubtful about the accuracy of the whole or any part of a message it may repeat it back to the sending station, preceding the repetition with the proword's I READ BACK
I Say Again
I am repeating transmission or portion indicated.
I Spell
I shall spell the next word or group of letters phonetically.
Out
This is the end of working to you. The end of work between two stations is indicated by each station adding the word OUT at the end of the last reply.
Over
The invitation to reply.  Note that the' phrase OVER AND OUT is never used.
Radio Check
Please tell me the strength and the clarity of my transmission.
Received
Used to acknowledge receipt of a message, i.e, YOUR NUMBER...RECEIVED. In cases of language difficulties, the word 'ROMEO' is used.
Say Again
Repeat your message or portion referred to i.e., SAY AGAIN ALL AFTER... SAY AGAIN ADDRESS etc. (Note:- This is typical of the need to memorise all these catch phrases'. To use the word REPEAT  would be wrong REPEAT is used to emphasize. something).
Station Calling
Used when a station receives a call which is intended for it, but is uncertain of the identification of the calling station.
This Is
This transmission is from the station whose call sign immediately follows. In cases of language difficulties the abbreviation DE spoken as DELTA ECHO is used
Wait
If a called station is unable to accept traffic immediately it will reply to you with the proword WAIT....
Minutes
If the probable duration of the waiting time exceeds 10 minutes the reason for the delay should be given.
Word After or Word Before
Used after the proword SAY.
Again
to request repetition of a portion of a radiogram or message.
Wrong
Reply to a repetition of a radio telegram that has been preceded by the proword's 'I READ BACK, when it has been incorrectly repeated.         

The Phonetic Alphabet

Letter Code Word Pronounced as
A Alfa AL FAH
B Bravo BRAH VO
C Charlie CHAR LEE
D Delta DELL TAH
E Echo ECK OH
F Foxtrot FOKS TROT
G Golf GOLF
H Hotel HOH TELL
I India IN DEE AH
J Juliet JEW LEE ETT
K Kilo KEY LOH
L Lima LEE MAH
M Mike MIKE
N November NO VEM BER
O Oscar 0SS CAH
P Papa PAH PAH
Q Quebec KEH BECK
R Romeo ROW ME OH
S Sierra SEE AIR RAH
T Tango TANG GO
U Uniform YOU NEE FORM
V Victor VIK TAH
W Whiskey WISS KEY
X X-ray ECKS RAY
Y Yankee  YANG KEY
Z Zulu ZOO LOO
1 One WUN
2 Two TOO
3 Three TREE
4 Four FOW ER
5 Five FIFE
6 Six SIX
7 Seven SEV EN
8 Eight AIT
9 Nine NIN ER
0 Zero ZEE RO

See also, Wikipedia: NATO phonetic alphabet.

Other Points

Do Do not
  • Practice your procedure drills
  • Practice the phonetic alphabet
  • Transmit messages not authorised by the master (skipper)
  • Operate a radio without a licence
  • Transmit false or deceptive messages
  • Transmit without and ID name or call sign
    Close down station
  • Broadcast a message without expecting a reply
  • Broadcast unnecessarily
  • Communicate without using coast radio station

More Information

Read the information about marine radios and there use in the Victorian Recreational Boating Safety Handbook (Adobe PDF | 14.08 MB) — A downloadable version of Marine Safety Victoria's Victorian Recreational Boating Safety Handbook, July 2020.

Radio Safety Information (Adobe PDF | 403.94 KB) — How to make an emergency radio call. Print and laminate this and keep it on your dive boat.

Please also see Marine Safety Victoria: Marine Radio.

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