Now that you have checked out the Radio Station and Radio Operator licensing pages, you now know whether or not you are required by law to have a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) License or maybe you are a voluntarily equipped vessel and just want to have a ship station and a radio operator's license in case your future plans take you out of the U.S., so let’s get you started!
To begin, all radio licensing in the U.S. whether it is a ship station license, a marine radio operator's permit, or an even an amateur radio license is done by the FCC.
Acquiring a ship station license is easy and involves nothing other than filling out a few forms and either filing them on line or mailing them to the FCC.
Getting your radio operators license on the other hand can range from easy to moderately difficult. Some licenses simply require the submission of a few forms (Restricted Radiotelephone Operator) and others will require an examination (Marine Radio Operator).
Don’t let the thought of an examination turn you off. It is rather simple. For those who already have a lot of experience in operating and using marine radios will have little trouble passing the exam with a (1) hour review of the course material. Those who are completely new to the realm of marine communications would probably need only a few evenings of study in order to pass.
You have the choice to either download the proper forms and mail them in or file electronically on line using the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS). The choice is up to you. For me, I usually download the forms, fill them out, double check all the information, and then go on line and file electronically, but the choice is yours. You may also submit your registration request (Form 160) at the same time you file your application.
To file, you must first register with the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS). You can either file FCC Form 160 (also listed below) or file online. Here is the link to the correct page to either log in or register as a new user - The FCC Universal Licensing System.
In all cases, whether you want to obtain your ship station or operator’s license, you will be required to complete between (4) and (5) forms:
Below, we have bundled all the required forms for each license into a single PDF file that you can download and complete when you want.
To apply for a FCC Ship Station License you will need to complete: Form 605, Schedule 605B, and Form 159. If this is the first time you have business with the FCC, you will also be required to have a "Federal Registration Number" (FRN.) You will need to complete Form 160 to be assigned a FRN. Complete instructions are included with each form.
To apply for a FCC Radio Operator’s License you will need to complete: Form 605, Schedule 605E, Schedule 605F, and Form 159. Form 160 will also need to be completed if you do not have a "FRN." Complete instructions are included with each form.
On the offhand chance that you wish to download all the forms above and decide how you wish to proceed, we got you covered!
To file an application electronically, visit the FCC's Internet Site and select Online Filing. Interactive instructions are provided for filing payment for an electronically filed application, including the amount and a Fee Remittance Advice. On-line payment with a credit card is also available. For technical assistance with filing electronically call (877) 480-3201.
When a new application is made for a ship station license, a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number will be automatically assigned. This MMSI number should then be programed into your marine radios; VHF & MF/HF-SSB as appropriate. In addition, VHF handhelds that are DSC equipped will also use the MMSI of the parent vessel.
AIS equipped vessels will in lieu of an official call-sign should enter "A" followed by the last 6 digits of the MMSI of the parent vessel onto their AIS Call Sign parameter.
Standard EPIRB's will also have to be programmed with the MMSI of the parent vessel. EPIRBS that are equipped with AIS, will be programmed at the factory with the MMSI belonging to that particular EPIRB-AIS and not to the AIS of the parent vessel.
If you sell your DSC-equipped radio or AIS or the boat these devices are mounted on, you must cancel your MMSI registration and you should inform the new owner of the need to re-register the MMSI.