Marine Radio

There are three types of marine radio that are commonly installed on vessels:

VHF – short range marine transceivers, costing from $150, suitable for inshore and coastal use
MF/HF – long range marine transceivers, costing from $3,500, suitable for offshore and ocean cruising
27mHz – short range marine transceivers, costing from $99.  This type of radio is considered obsolete and is not recommended for use.  Your chances of being heard if you are in distress are far less with this type of equipment.

MAST requirements

Mast requires that any recreational vessel operating outside sheltered waters must carry a marine radio.

About VHF

A VHF radio tends to suit recreational vessels operating in Tasmania for the following reasons:

  • Tasmania is served by a network of VHF base and repeater stations that cover almost the entire coastline
  • VHF is not usually affected by Ionospheric or atmospheric conditions in the way HF and 27mHz are
  • VHF is monitored by Coast Stations operated by Volunteers and Port Authorities on a 24 hour basis
  • Shipping and commercial vessels also monitor VHF Ch 16 – the international distress and calling channel
  • VHF talk through repeaters increase substantially the effective range of a vessel’s VHF radio

Mobile phones

A mobile phone cannot be used as a substitute for the requirement to fit a marine radio.  In an emergency situation a marine radio transmission can be heard by other vessels that may be in the vicinity and so provide a greater chance of receiving a quick response.  Mobile phone are still useful so keep yours in a waterproof cover to ensure it will work when you need it.

Satellite phones

A satellite phone, or satphone is a type of mobile phone that connects to satellites orbiting the earth unlike a mobile that users land based sites. They provide similar functionality to a mobile phone; voice, sms and low-bandwidth internet access are supported through most systems.

A sat phone does not take the place of a VHF radio or HF set and consequently cannot be used as the primary means of voice to voice communication on a boat. The carriage of sat phones for people cruising is becoming more and more popular and whilst expensive, coverage is excellent provided the antenna has a clear view to the sky and satellites.

Sat phone

Sat phone

Important points

  • Always have your radio switched to the Distress and Calling channel when our in your boat
  •  Always stow your microphone in its holder when not in use
  •  Make sure the international (INTL) mode is selected on your VHF radio (Not USA or CAN).  This ensures maximum output power and correct use of repeater and ship to shore duplex channels
  •  Using a Marine VHF radio on shore is illegal except in emergency situations.

Marine Radio Operator Certification

All marine radio users must be qualified.  If you use a VHF marine radio in Australian Territorial Waters (within 12 nautical miles of the coast), you can apply for the Australian Waters Qualification (AWQ).

The internationally recognised marine radio qualifications – The Marine Radio Operator Certificate of Proficiency (MROCP) and Marine Radio Operator VHF Certificate have had a name change.  Now known as the Long-Range Operator Certificate of Proficiency (formerly MROCP) and Short-Range Operator Certificate of Proficiency (formerly MROVCP), these certificates remain unchanged and are issued for life.

No Certificate is required to operate 27 mHz equipment.

See the ACMA website for details.

ACMA Fact Sheet