If your boating takes you more than a few nautical miles away from mainland, it’s law to have a reliable marine band radio on board. Owning a VHF or MF/HF radio comes with a need to know the protocols and procedures for using one and to be properly certified in using it.
Without the proper training, you are putting your passengers’ lives at risk and possibly those on other vessels if you misuse your radio. Each state and territory in Australia will have their own requirements for marine radios so be sure to check your local agency. The Office of Maritime Communications (OMC) is responsible for marine examinations and certificates via a deed with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Here’s how to become certified and potentially save lives.
Which Type of Communication
We rely on our mobile phones for just about everything, but marine safety shouldn’t be one of these. While a mobile is a good backup out on the water, it can’t be your main line of communication due to their poor battery life and limited range off the coast. A marine radio has a heavy duty battery, and can be used for communicating both with vessels in your area and emergency services on the coast, as well as providing updates on weather and safety.
The VHF radio is the most common type as it has channels that are monitored by most vessels and rescue groups on land and is not limited to line of sight which the 27MHz radios are. A 27MHz is suitable if you are within ten nautical miles from the coast and want to communicate short range with another vessel. Before relying on it for safety check that your local marine rescue service monitors channel 27.88MHz.
When you are at sea, you need to have your radio turned on and tuned in to the distress frequency. The frequency depends on the type of radio you own.
- For 27MHz the frequency is 27.88.
- For VHF the frequency is channel 16.
- All Sea Rescue Groups monitor Channel 88 and VHF Channel 16.
We all know how fast the weather can turn when we are out on the water, so stay tuned for any wind and weather warnings from your local radio coastal station. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has a handy, short video on How to Use Your VHF marine radio for weather information.
Listening to VHF Channel 16 will alert you to any distress and safety calls. If you need to call or work with other boats, use channels 72, 73 or 77. The ACMA also has a video you can watch for more information on frequencies and How to Use VHF Marine Radio.
VHF Broadcasts by State
The Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology has published the following table to help you find the marine transport and safety agency for your area. These agencies are responsible for transmitting marine safety and weather warnings to watercraft that are under 300 tonnes on VHF radio.
Your local agency may have a sign or sticker you can keep on board your boat reminding you to log on and off and which radio channels to use.
For 27 MHz radios, the distress and calling channels are 88 and 86. Coast stations use channels 90 and 91 while vessel to vessel communications should be over channel 96.
If you are going to transmit a message using MF/HF or VHF radio, you need a Certificate of Proficiency. The Office of Maritime Communications within the Australian Maritime College (AMC) is responsible for marine radio examinations and certification. Some educational institutions and registered training organisations are authorised by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to conduct courses and exams. Some volunteer sea rescue groups throughout Australia offer training courses and exams on how to use your marine radio. Ask your local group for more information. You may also need an individual station licence (renewed annually) to allocate a radio call sign to your vessel. Check with your state or territory agency.
The certificates include:
Certification ensures that you understand safety and distress procedures, that you know how to respond to an emergency call and your messages will be understood. The different certificates relate to operating certain types of radios.
There are significant fines and possible imprisonment for operating a VHF without certification or the supervision of a qualified person.
For more information about using your marine radio, check out the Australian Maritime College’s Marine Radio Operator’s Handbook and keep a copy on board.
Boat Accessories Australia carries a range of VHF and 27 MHz marine radios
. If you aren’t sure which one is best for your type of boating, don’t hesitate to call us on 1300 308 161 or contact us online
and we’ll be happy to help.