New VHF Marine Channels Approved for 2017

Due to the increased need of more marine VHF channels for VTS, commercial requirements, and port operations, a recent ITU World Radio Conference has authorized and developed a new channel plan for the VHF marine radio frequencies. This new channel plan will take effect January 1, 2017.

How will this affect the international frequency plan?

Besides having to either upgrade your existing radio or buy a new one (I imagine the major VHF marine radio manufacturers are loving this,) the plan is to take the current channels 19, 20, 78, and 79, currently duplex, and split them into 8 new simplex channels.

Here is an example:

For most places, everywhere but the America’s, channel 19 is a duplex channel (using different frequencies to transmit and receive on) with a ship transmit frequency of 156.950 MHz and coast transmit (ship receive) frequency of 161.550 MHz. Beginning January 2017 the ship transmit frequency of 156.950 MHz will become the new channel 1019 and the coast transmit frequency of 161.550 MHz becomes channel 2019.

The 8 newly created channels will be as follows - 1019, 2019, 1020, 2020, 1078, 2078, 1079, and 2079. All of these new channels have been dedicated to Port Operations and Ship Movement by the ITU. It remains to be seen if member state governments will provide relief to the recreational boater by reassigning any of these new channels to Non-Commercial usage.

What changes will we see in North America?

Well to start, beginning January 1, 2017.

In the United States

  1. All "Alpha Channels" will drop the "Alpha" and will change their designations to (4) digit channel numbers beginning with "10" and then the old channel number.
    Here are the changes:
    Channel 01A becomes 1001, 05A becomes 1005, 07A becomes 1007, 18A becomes 1018, 19A becomes 1019, 20A becomes 1020, 21A becomes 1021, 22A becomes 1022, 23A becomes 1023, 63A becomes 1063, 65A becomes 1065, 66A becomes 1066, 78A becomes 1078, 79A becomes 1079, 80A becomes 1080, 81A becomes 1081, 82A becomes 1082, and 83A becomes 1083.
    This looks more onerous than it actually is. The frequency of the "Alpha" channel and the new "10nn"(4) digit channel does not change. The problem is for persons with older radios having to take the time to determine what channel to switch to when asked to switch to channel 1018.

  2. The following channels will be available for "VDSMS" (VHF Digital Small Message Services): 1007, 10, 11, 1018, 1019, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 68, 69, 71, 72, 1078, 1079, 1080, 84, 85, 86, 87, and 88.

  3. Channels 27, 87, 28 and 88 may be used for testing of new AIS applications.

  4. The frequency 160.9 MHz (a spare Coast Station transmit frequency between channels 65 and 66) may be used for testing of new applications. This will be known as channel 2006.

In Canada

For the great majority of boaters in Region 2, these changes should have little or no impact to their normal VHF communications requirements.

On the following pages, we have listed marine VHF frequency usage tables for a few countries from around the world. While our list is small, we hope that we can build on these tables going forward. If you have information concerning VHF frequency allocation of countries that we have not listed please send it on to us at and we will try and get it published.

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