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VHF Radio Rules

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VHF Radio Usage

Many countries regulate communications very strictly; requiring training and licensing for operating any radio including marine VHF. In the past the U.S. required such licensing for everyone operating a radio, but it has since done away with this requirement for recreational boaters.

While I do not advocate governmental "Big Brother Laws" (i.e. let me take care of you since you are obviously too dumb to take care of yourself), if boaters continue to operate their vessels without applying some modicum of common sense, it will eventually happen. Just as a license to operate a boat is now the norm and not the exception, laws requiring the licensing for radio stations and operators for recreational boaters will once again be raised.

Your VHF radio is not a toy, so you may want to keep the children away from it. Improper or misuse of your radio can lead to fines, imprisonment, and recovery of all costs associated with that misuse.

All radio operators and radio stations, licensed or not, are required to be familiar with and adhere to the rules and regulations of the Federal Communications Commission governing the use of their radio.

Here is what the FCC Says:

47 CFR 80.13(c) Station license required.
. . ."Even though an individual license is not required, a ship station licensed by rule must be operated in accordance with all applicable operating requirements, procedures, and technical specifications found in this part."

What are some of the most common mistakes made that can lead to FCC enforcement action?

Fake or Hoax distress calls
Improper frequency usage
Language (Profanity)
False identification of your station

And speaking of language, the VHF Radio is most definitely not a CB. Nothing says "IDIOT" to the rest of the listening world, like "Hey Good Buddy, Ya Got your Ears On?"

Keep in mind that all radios have a unique electronic signature. There is also the equipment out there to take human "voice prints" of transmissions. Depending on the severity of the violation, the FCC working with the USCG will go to almost any length in an effort to prosecute those that violate the laws when using their radio.

We all know what it is like trying to communicate with another station especially on a nice weekend during boating season. When the major holiday's like Memorial Day or the 4th of July weekend roll around, Good Luck!. To put it mildly, it is frustrating!

People talking over each other.
Carrying on conversations on the hailing and distress frequencies.
Conversations that go on forever not allowing others to use the frequency.
Hoax distress calls.
and the list goes on. . .

After 10 minutes of listening to this, you are usually asking yourselves just where the FCC is when you need them. Will it ever stop? Probably not. When you have children whether aged 4 or 40, using the radio, it is going to continue.

Proper radio procedure demonstrates professionalism and helps relieve congestion on the already crowded non-commercial frequencies.

The Radio Watch

Another issue that raises a lot of questions is the radio watch. The short answer is if you are underway you have to maintain a listening watch on your radios.

47 CFR 80.310 Watch required by voluntary vessels.
"Voluntary vessels not equipped with DSC must maintain a watch on 156.800 MHz (Channel 16) whenever the vessel is underway and the radio is not being used to communicate.
Noncommercial vessels, such as recreational boats, may alternatively maintain a watch on 156.450 MHz (Channel 9) for call and reply purposes.
Voluntary vessels equipped with VHF-DSC equipment must maintain a watch on either 156.525 MHz (Channel 70) or VHF Channel 16 aurally whenever the vessel is underway and the radio is not being used to communicate..."