U.S. VHF Frequency and Usage Table

Currently in the U.S. there are approximately 49 VHF channels available plus 7 additional channels dedicated to NOAA WX Radio and (2) for use of the Automatic Identification System (AIS.) Many of these channels are dedicated to specific uses and therefore are unavailable for routine traffic. Here is a quick look at the disparity between commercial/government operators and the non-commercial recreational boating community:

Commercial, Port Operations & Vessel Traffic Services 23
Public Correspondence (Marine Operators) 8
Non-Commercial (Recreational Boaters) 5*
USCG & Other U.S. Government Agencies 6
State & Local Government 1

*(7) - If you happen to be on the Great Lakes.

Useful Frequencies for the Boater

Let’s look at the channels / frequencies that are of interest to the recreational boater. These are comprised of the 8 non-commercial, 10 weather, 9 public correspondence, plus a number of the special usage frequencies.

Useful Boater Frequencies

Channel Use Types of Transmissions
06 Inter ship Safety Ship to Ship Safety & Search and Rescue.
09 Hailing Frequency Also available to commercial traffic.
13 Bridge to Bridge Navigation Traffic must be about vessel navigation.
16 International Distress, Urgency, Safety, & Hailing
1022 Coast Guard Liaison and Safety Information Broadcasts. Use this channel to talk to the Coast Guard.
24 - 28
84 - 86
Public Correspondence Marine Operator.
68 Non-Commercial. Routine Traffic.
69 Non-Commercial. Routine Traffic.
70 Digital Selective Calling Only, No Voice Communications Authorized.
71 Non-Commercial. Routine Traffic.
72 Non-Commercial. Routine Traffic.
1078 Non-Commercial. Routine Traffic.
1079 Non-Commercial
(Great Lakes Only)
Routine Traffic.
1080 Non-Commercial
(Great Lakes Only)
Routine Traffic.
WX-1 - WX-7 Weather Radio Receive Only.

Complete List of U.S. VHF Frequencies and Usage

Updated to reflect new VHF frequencies as of 01 January 2017.

Open Down Arrow United States VHF Frequencies and Usage

U.S. VHF Frequencies and Usage

Channel Number Ship Transmit MHz Ship Receive MHz Use Types of Transmissions
1001 156.050 156.050 Port Operations and Commercial, VTS. Available only in New Orleans / Lower Mississippi area. Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways.
1005 156.250 156.250 Port Operations or VTS in the Houston, New Orleans and Seattle areas. Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways.
06 156.300 156.300 Intership Safety Use this channel for ship-to-ship safety messages and for search and rescue messages to ships and aircraft of the Coast Guard.
1007 156.350 156.350 Commercial Use Only Working channel for working ships only. VDSMS
08 156.400 156.400 Commercial Use Only Working channel for working ships only. Intership Only. VDSMS
09 156.450 156.450 Hailing, Commercial, and Non-Commercial Hailing Channel. VDSMS
10 156.500 156.500 Commercial Use Only Working channel for working ships only. VDSMS
11 156.550 156.550 Commercial Use Only. VTS in selected areas. Working channel for working ships only. VDSMS
12 156.600 156.600 Port Operations. VTS in selected areas. Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways.
13 156.650 156.650 Intership Navigation Safety (Bridge-to-bridge). Ships >20m in length maintain a listening watch on this channel in US waters. This channel is available to all ships. Messages must be about ship navigation.
14 156.700 156.700 Port Operations. VTS in selected areas. Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways.
15 --- 156.750 Environmental. Used by Class C EPIRB's. Receive Only.
16 156.800 156.800 International Distress, Urgency, Safety and Hailing.
17 156.850 156.850 State & Local Government Maritime Control. This channel may be used to talk to ships and coast stations operated by state or local governments only.
1018 156.900 156.900 Commercial Use Only Working channels for working ships only. VDSMS
1019 156.950 156.950 Commercial Use Only Working channels for working ships only. VDSMS
20 157.000 161.600 Port Operations. Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways. Channel 20 is only for ship-to-coast messages.
1020 157.000 157.000 Port Operations. Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways.
1021 157.050 157.050 Restricted U.S. Coast Guard Only.
1022 157.100 157.100 Coast Guard Liaison and Maritime Safety Information Broadcasts. Use this channel to talk to the Coast Guard (after making contact on Channel 16).
1023 157.150 157.150 Restricted U.S. Coast Guard Only.
24 157.200 161.800 Public Correspondence. (Marine Operator) Use this channel to call the marine operator at a public coast station.
25 157.250 161.850 Public Correspondence. (Marine Operator) Use this channel to call the marine operator at a public coast station.
26 157.300 161.900 Public Correspondence. (Marine Operator) Use this channel to call the marine operator at a public coast station.
27 157.350 161.950 Public Correspondence. (Marine Operator) Use this channel to call the marine operator at a public coast station.
28 157.400 162.000 Public Correspondence. (Marine Operator) Use this channel to call the marine operator at a public coast station.
1063 156.175 156.175 Port Operations, Commercial, and VTS. Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways. Available only in New Orleans / Lower Mississippi area.
1065 156.275 156.275 Port Operations Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways.
1066 156.325 156.325 Port Operations. Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways.
67 156.375 156.375 Commercial Use Only Working channels for working ships only. Used for Bridge-to-bridge communications in lower Mississippi River. Intership only.
68 156.425 156.425 Non-Commercial Working channel for non-commercial vessels. Messages must be about the needs of the vessel. VDSMS
69 156.475 156.475 Non-Commercial Working channel for non-commercial vessels. Messages must be about the needs of the vessel. VDSMS
70 156.525 156.525 Digital Selective Calling. (Voice Communications Prohibited) Use this channel for distress and safety and for general purpose hailing using only digital selective calling techniques.
71 156.575 156.575 Non-Commercial Working channel for non-commercial vessels. Messages must be about the needs of the vessel. VDSMS
72 156.625 156.625 Non-Commercial Working channel for non-commercial vessels. Messages must be about the needs of the vessel. Intership Only. VDSMS
73 156.675 156.675 Port Operations Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways.
74 156.725 156.725 Port Operations Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways.
77 156.875 156.875 Port Operations Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways. Intership Only.
1078 156.925 156.925 Non-Commercial Working channel for non-commercial vessels. Messages must be about the needs of the vessel. Intership Only. VDSMS
1079 156.975 156.975 Commercial Use Only. (Non-Commercial in Great Lakes only) Working channels for working ships only. VDSMS
1080 157.025 157.025 Commercial Use Only. (Non-Commercial in Great Lakes only) Working channels for working ships only. VDSMS
1081 157.075 157.075 Restricted
Environmental Protection Operations
U.S. Government Only
1082 157.125 157.125 Restricted U.S. Government Only
1083 157.175 157.175 Restricted U.S. Coast Guard Only
84 157.225 161.825 Public Correspondence (Marine Operator) Use this channel to call the marine operator at a public coast station.
85 157.275 161.875 Public Correspondence (Marine Operator) Use this channel to call the marine operator at a public coast station.
86 157.325 161.925 Public Correspondence (Marine Operator) Use this channel to call the marine operator at a public coast station.
87 157.375 157.375 Port Operations Used in directing the movement of ships in or near ports, locks or waterways.
88 157.425 157.425 Commercial Use Only Working channels for working ships only. Intership only. VDSMS
 
AIS 1 161.975 161.975 Automatic Identification System (AIS) Identification & Navigation Information
AIS 2 162.025 162.025 Automatic Identification System (AIS) Identification & Navigation Information
 
WX-1 --- 162.550 NOAA Weather Radio Receive Only.
WX-2 --- 162.400 NOAA Weather Radio Receive Only.
WX-3 --- 162.475 NOAA Weather Radio Receive Only.
WX-4 --- 162.425 NOAA Weather Radio Receive Only.
WX-5 --- 162.450 NOAA Weather Radio Receive Only.
WX-6 --- 162.500 NOAA Weather Radio Receive Only.
WX-7 --- 162.525 NOAA Weather Radio Receive Only.

The complete list can be downloaded in zipped PDF format United States VHF Frequency Chart.

Many NOAA Weather Radio receivers are also programmed for three additional frequencies; 161.650 MHz (marine VHF Ch 21B), 161.775 MHz (marine VHF Ch 83B) and 163.275 MHz. The first two frequencies are used by Canada for marine weather broadcasts. 163.275 MHz was used by the National Weather Service for internal coordination in the event of a power outage but is no longer in active use.

Why are some channels now (4) digits long?

Originally these frequencies were (2) digits only and codified as duplex channels. Some nation states in the past (including the U.S.) had decided to use some of them as simplex channels by splitting off one of the frequency pairs, using that as a simplex channel, and attaching a letter designator to it to show which of the frequency pairs were being used. The "A" signified that the ship transmit frequency was being used, while "B" meant that the coast tramsmit (ship receive) frequency was being used.

A good example of this is Channel 22. Under ITU Regulations, this is a duplex channel with the frequencies 157.100/161.700 assigned to it. In the U.S. it was decided to split this frequency for use as a simplex frequency. The ship transmit side of the frequency (157.100 MHz) was chosen resulting in the new channel becoming 22A. Had they chosen to use the coast transmit frequency the new channel would have become 22B. Pretty simple really, not to mention it is the system that we have grown up with.

Enter the International Telecommunication Union (ITU): A United Nations Organization.

Now we have new designations for these split channels effective 2017. The ITU, in all of its wisdom, has deceided to drop letter designators and have instituted (4) digit channel numbers to show frequencies that have been split from duplex to simplex.

They decided that if the "Ship Transmit" frequency was to be used then the basic channel number would be preceded by a "10" and if the "Coast Transmit" frequency is being used, to precede it with a "20." So, what used to be "Channel 22A" is now "Channel 1022." In Canada, where they often use the "Coast Transmit" side of duplex frequencies, such as their use of "Channel 21B"; the new channel designator will now be "Channel 2021."

Seems to me they have taken the "Simple out of Simplex" and replaced it with "Complex." But hell, what do I know?

VHF Frequency Tables by Country

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