Do I Need a Radio Operator’s Permit?

The FCC regulates who is required to hold a radio operator’s license and what type of license is needed. This is based on a number of factors including: vessel size, the area of operations, the type of operations, and the type of radio equipment being used.

While the rules governing whether a license or permit is required to operate a marine radio station are no more complex than those governing marine radio station licensing, they become slightly more so when it comes to determining which type of license is required.


In the case of recreational boaters, for the most part, no license will be required. There are exceptions though, such as when recreational vessels are sailing to foreign ports, who they are communicating with, and the type of radio equipment being used.

To start, you need to know whether or not you need a license at all. The table below illustrates who is required by law to have a license to operate a marine radio station of any type aboard any vessel:

Marine Radio Operators License

At any point in this table you answer YES, you are required to have some form of license to operate a marine radio station.
Is your vessel any one of the following?
  1. More than 300 gross tons and required by law to carry a radio station; or
  2. Carries more than 6 passengers for hire; or
  3. Operating radios on medium frequencies (MF) or high frequencies (HF); or
  4. Sailing foreign and/or communicating with foreign radio stations; or
  5. Transmitting radiotelegraphy.
If you answered YES to any of the above If you answered NO to all of the above
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Radio operator’s license is required. No radio operator’s license required.
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So... Do You Need an Operator’s License?

Now that you have checked the table above and have determined whether you need a radio operators license or not, the next step is to determine which radio operator’s license you will need.

Types of License’s

There are more than a dozen different commercial radio operator licenses currently issued by the FCC. However, for the recreational boater or small commercial boat operator (less than 300 gross tons), you will typically only need to look at one or two different licenses, the Marine Radio Operator’s Permit (MROP) or the Restricted Radio Operator’s Permit (RR.)

Which License do You Need?

Marine Radio Operator Restricted Radio Telephone Operator
If you answered "No" to all the questions at left...
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Is your vessel >20 m and sailing on the Great Lakes? Are you sailing foreign or communicating with foreign radio stations?
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Is your vessel >8 m and engaged in towing on the Great Lakes? Do you use MF/HF Single Sideband or Sat Comm?
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Is your vessel >300 gross tons? If you answered YES to either statement above, you are required to have a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit (RR.)
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Is your vessel carrying more than (6) passengers for hire?  
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If you answered YES to any statement above, you are required to have a Marine Radio Operator Permit (MP.)  
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Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit (RR)

This is the simplest license to obtain. There is no exam involved and it will serve the needs of most recreational boaters.

The following criteria must be met:

The RR is issued for the holder’s lifetime (does not expire.)

Marine Radio Operator Permit (MP)

The MP is required to operate radiotelephone stations aboard certain vessels that sail the Great Lakes. They are also required to operate radiotelephone stations aboard vessels of more than 300 gross tons and vessels which carry more than six passengers for hire in the open sea or any tidewater area of the United States. They are also required to operate certain aviation radiotelephone stations and certain coast radiotelephone stations.

The following criteria must be met:

The MP is issued for the holder’s lifetime (does not expire.)

How to Apply

To get you on the right track to get your Radio Operator’s License, we are going to send you to our FCC Licensing Page.


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