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MMSI Numbers for VHS Handhelds Used Around the World


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Does anyone know the most appropriate way to get an MMSI number for a VHS handheld (with DSC capability) that will be used in multiple charter boats in multiple different locations outside of the US?  I have been looking at this website below.

https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=mtmmsi

Under the heading "Obtaining MMSIs for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds" it says:

"A handheld VHF transceiver with DSC and an integral global navigation satellite system (e.g. GPS) not intended for dedicated use on a particular ship (e.g. a diver’s radio) should be assigned a unique 9-digit number in the format 81M2I3D4X5X6X7X8X9. While currently means do not exist within the U.S. to assign such identities, the Coast Guard has been in discussions with the Federal communications Commission and others on implementing them.

In the interim, VHF handhelds used in the United States should use the MMSI assigned to the ship to which the handheld is primarily associated, even if another radio on that ship uses the same MMSI. Non-commercial users of VHF handhelds not primarily associated with any single ship may use an MMSI provided by an organization such as BOAT US and U.S. Power Squadron (see above). VHF handhelds should not be used ashore absent FCC or NTIA authorization allowing such use."

 

I'm concerned with the language: "VHF handhelds used in the United States."  If I register VHF handheld through a US based organization such as BOAT US and U.S. Power Squadron will it work overseas?

 

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  • Tharsheblows changed the title to MMSI Numbers for VHS Handhelds Used Around the World

The USCG needs to update that website, as of late last year (2020) you can now can apply for a FCC Ship Station License for a portable.
 

Quote

Type of License

Item 4 Enter the appropriate letter for the type of authorization desired.
    Enter ’R’ if the type of license is regular (transmitter(s) to be used on 1 vessel only).
    Enter ‘P’ if the type of license is portable (a single transmitter will be used on various U.S. registered vessels).
    Enter ‘F’ if the type of license is fleet (several vessels will each have transmitters that operate in similar frequency bands and are



https://transition.fcc.gov/Forms/Form605/605b.pdf


The Boat US MMSI doesn't apply to you if you are going international as they are only valid for radios that:

  1) Boats not required by law to carry a radio. 

and

   2) do not make international voyages or communications

If you are going international you do not use a Boat US MMSI

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2 hours ago, nirikki said:

The USCG needs to update that website, as of late last year (2020) you can now can apply for a FCC Ship Station License for a portable.
 



https://transition.fcc.gov/Forms/Form605/605b.pdf


The Boat US MMSI doesn't apply to you if you are going international as they are only valid for radios that:

  1) Boats not required by law to carry a radio. 

and

   2) do not make international voyages or communications

If you are going international you do not use a Boat US MMSI

Thank you.  I think this is exactly what I was looking for. 

Do you remember approximately what it costs to be a FCC Ship Station? and if there a renewal term?

 

Also, perhaps you can help me with a slightly related question, I have a plb that I registered in the US through NOAA and have taken with me outside of the country many times but thankfully have never "used."  That would work worldwide right?  I assume it should work technically as it connects to a satellite system but I always wondered if there is sufficient coordination on the human response/rescue side.  I assume the answer might differ country to country.   Do you have any knowledge/insight into that issue?

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I had an EPIRB with a US registration, but am in Canada.  The registrar pointed out that while it would still work as an EPIRB it would induce delays in the response as the first check is to the country of origin - so if I set it off in Canadian waters the alert first goes to the USA, who then check the validity of it against their database, and then they would notify Canada.  Same thing should be true for a PLB.  It will work, but might cost you some time.

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8 minutes ago, sculpin said:

I had an EPIRB with a US registration, but am in Canada.  The registrar pointed out that while it would still work as an EPIRB it would induce delays in the response as the first check is to the country of origin - so if I set it off in Canadian waters the alert first goes to the USA, who then check the validity of it against their database, and then they would notify Canada.  Same thing should be true for a PLB.  It will work, but might cost you some time.

That's good news.  I saw it can be tied to your ship station license.  Perhaps that will help the coordination if I ever need to use it and the DSC

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48 minutes ago, Tharsheblows said:

A station license for the handheld unconnected to a boat, right?

No, for a global MMSI for the AIS, which gets used by everything else. 

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10 hours ago, sculpin said:

I had an EPIRB with a US registration, but am in Canada.  The registrar pointed out that while it would still work as an EPIRB it would induce delays in the response as the first check is to the country of origin - so if I set it off in Canadian waters the alert first goes to the USA, who then check the validity of it against their database, and then they would notify Canada.  Same thing should be true for a PLB.  It will work, but might cost you some time.

Which PLB do you have? All that I know of connect to private services that are companies specialized in corporate overseas employee security. They have protocols to ensure you get the help you need no matter where you are. 

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1 hour ago, Baldur said:

Which PLB do you have? All that I know of connect to private services that are companies specialized in corporate overseas employee security. They have protocols to ensure you get the help you need no matter where you are. 

ACR Aqualink

https://www.acrartex.com/products/aqualink-plb

I figure if any of them work over seas it will be ACR.

 

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MMSI (Maritime Mobile Safety Identity) is part of the DSC (Digital Selective Calling) protocol, which is part of the GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress & Safety System) adopted by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) in 1988 from Chapter IV of the International Convention for SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) in 1974. All this is to say that the issue is an international standard, managed by national entities within the IMO member countries. Neither the FCC, nor radio manufacturers, nor end users can decide how the protocols including MMSI should be managed. MMSI are intended as unique identifiers for ship radio stations programmed in their transmitters, including hand-held VHFs. In fact, if every hand-held VHF had its own 'roving MMSI' there would not be enough unique numbers available in the system. If someone needs to be reachable / trackable and capable of sending a (distress) message by a portable radio device as they 'globe-trot', they should be using commercial services such as SPOT, inReach, Zoleo, etc. Bottom line: if you and your 'ship' with its radio equipment are not physically with you in national or international waters, you should not be using MMSI/DSC radio - you are jeopardizing your safety and the effectiveness of GMDSS by short-circuiting the system.

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3 hours ago, Tharsheblows said:

ACR Aqualink

https://www.acrartex.com/products/aqualink-plb

I figure if any of them work over seas it will be ACR.

 

Delorme uses GEOS, which will also work great overseas. Spot used to use GEOS, but after GEOS was purchased by Garmin last year SPOT now uses a different, but same type of company. 

Here is a list of devices & Services that use GEOS for emergency response. https://www.iercc.com/en-US/supported-devices/ and about us. https://www.geosresponse.com/about-us.html

For your Aqualink I could not find the emergency provider. I think, not positive, that since it is a 406mhz device that it will go thru the same processing as an EPIRB, but also received at ACR to be able to send your non emergency messages and such. Probably also helps keep the false response rate down. Devices like SPOT and inReach have a much lower false response rate than a traditional 406mhz epirb, but also have other limitations the 406mhz device does not.

 

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Correction, I just remembered this,  the portable MMSI from the FFC is only for use upon US flagged vessels.  The real problem is that the The FCC cannot grant authorization for foreign vessels.  The personal case I know where a MMSI was granted was a "Portable ship station" and not a "Associated ship unit" which would be like the OP handheld which may not be granted until the US adopts the handheld MMSI numbering.

Note that Boat US and Power squadron MMSI's are not added to the global SAR databases. Note that a portable ship radio license and FCC provided MMSI that is registered with the global search and rescue databases is also granting that ship radio license and would only work for US flagged vessels.  So they wouldn't be able to issue one for international charters on random flagged boats.

PLBs, MOB, AIS-EPIRBS etc are registered with the global SAR databases and are not ship station licences.  While most agencies will respond to any distress signal, a handheld VHF is not the best option if that is the concern.

Sorry to get your hopes up, but it is better for people who need to register portable ship stations now.

Unfortunately the security theater around changing MMSIs on devices is the real blocker here.  In theory you should be able to use MMSI of the boat you are chartering and be OK in most countries....but the restrictions around changing the MMSI make that difficult.

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Easiest is to use the MMSI of the boat you are on, and figure out the hack to change the MMSI on your handheld device yourself.  I don't know much about handhelds, but I do know that the 'change MMSI' functionality for Garmin and SiTex fixed AIS is extremely simple for the home user compared to that for SIMRAD or ICOM.  YMMV.

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14 hours ago, Baldur said:

Which PLB do you have? All that I know of connect to private services that are companies specialized in corporate overseas employee security. They have protocols to ensure you get the help you need no matter where you are. 

I think you might be confusing PLBs with Personal Satellite Messengers. PLBs are the same technology as EPIRBS, just designed for individual rather than vessel use so have different characteristics in terms of battery life, size and weight. PLBs and EPRIBS connect through the global network of rescue coordination centers that are government funded.

Personal satellite messaging devices like SPOT or Garmin InReach are as you say, connected through private services that are responsible for then connecting to the local rescue services.

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What Mark said.

An EPIRB and a PLB both use the COSPAS/SARSAT system worldwide, so if I go sailing off to the far side it will still work.  These devices are one way, transmitting on 406 MHz.  A distress signal goes direct to national search and rescue.

A personal tracker (Delorme or Garmin, Yellowbrick, for example) are run by private companies, different satellite networks, totally different hardware.  MMSI numbers do not apply to these.  Use can be 2 way for messaging.  Emergency signals are routed to the private company, who then contact emergency services on your behalf.  Your mileage may vary...

Currently I'm coastal cruising and I carry a PLB.  Were I to head over the horizon I would upgrade to a proper EPIRB for the better battery life.  A good friend does backwoods canoeing, he carries an InReach because it allows him to send texts to reassure his wife that he has not yet been eaten by mosquitoes, drowned, been maimed by a rabid beaver, etc.

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I guess you might want to send a MMSI distress call (and thus associate the MMSI with the boat you are on for a week) but if you're chartering in any typical region when the Channel 70 distress sound goes off, everybody probably ignores it.

If you make a voice call saying Mayday I'm sinking - the local folks might pay more attention.

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13 hours ago, Mark Morwood said:

I think you might be confusing PLBs with Personal Satellite Messengers. PLBs are the same technology as EPIRBS, just designed for individual rather than vessel use so have different characteristics in terms of battery life, size and weight. PLBs and EPRIBS connect through the global network of rescue coordination centers that are government funded.

Personal satellite messaging devices like SPOT or Garmin InReach are as you say, connected through private services that are responsible for then connecting to the local rescue services.

I understand completely the difference. My confusion was that for some reason I thought the ACR aqualink was a 406mhz epirb AND a SEND (Satellite enabled Notification device or Satellite emergency notification device is how the industry calls them) But clearly it is a PLB with no SEND functions. For some reason I thought I read that it could send non emergency signals, but that is not the case.

 

 

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The ACR aqualink is a AIS-MOB.

Not sure if it is absolute if you think AIS-SARTs and AIS-MOB device alerts are intentionally local, only EPIRB-AIS is not.

AIS-SARTs, AIS-MOB, and EPIRB-AIS MMSIs are issued by the manufacture with a four digit device number that they just roll over.  So if one device they make has 9999 in that portion of the MMSI, the next unit will be 0000.

As the US has a lot of space in their assigned MSI ranges I don't think that they have any real urgency to implement the 9182M3I4D5X6X7X8X9 pattern for craft associated with a parent ship like other countries.

Due to the huge false positive rate on EPIRBs in general, I doubt that they will move that functionality to personal devices, opting more for newer sat communicators that allow for two way communication to validate a situation is a distress situation before allocating expensive and limited resources.

ELT and PLB alerts are handled by the Airforce RCC while EPIRBs are handled by the Navy BTW. Just in case you need to report an accidental activation some day.

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On 9/7/2021 at 7:13 AM, Jim in Halifax said:

MMSI (Maritime Mobile Safety Identity) is part of the DSC (Digital Selective Calling) protocol, which is part of the GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress & Safety System) adopted by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) in 1988 from Chapter IV of the International Convention for SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) in 1974. All this is to say that the issue is an international standard, managed by national entities within the IMO member countries. Neither the FCC, nor radio manufacturers, nor end users can decide how the protocols including MMSI should be managed. MMSI are intended as unique identifiers for ship radio stations programmed in their transmitters, including hand-held VHFs. In fact, if every hand-held VHF had its own 'roving MMSI' there would not be enough unique numbers available in the system. If someone needs to be reachable / trackable and capable of sending a (distress) message by a portable radio device as they 'globe-trot', they should be using commercial services such as SPOT, inReach, Zoleo, etc. Bottom line: if you and your 'ship' with its radio equipment are not physically with you in national or international waters, you should not be using MMSI/DSC radio - you are jeopardizing your safety and the effectiveness of GMDSS by short-circuiting the system.

Yes 

this is my understanding 

the Mmsi number belongs to the ship and is assigned by your flag state 

ive never heard of mmsi identifiers for  free range radios 

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3 hours ago, nirikki said:

The ACR aqualink is a AIS-MOB.

AIS is VHF. I understand how that works also. But the Aqualink is "ACR AquaLink 406 MHz GPS Personal Locator Beacon" Which is the same as an EPIRB, right? so the distress signal will be handled the same way. Am I missing something? I was confused on the capability for this device to send non emergency msgs. But clear that I made that up and it does not. I dont see where it has AIS, what am I missing?

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3 hours ago, Baldur said:

AIS is VHF. I understand how that works also. But the Aqualink is "ACR AquaLink 406 MHz GPS Personal Locator Beacon" Which is the same as an EPIRB, right? so the distress signal will be handled the same way. Am I missing something? I was confused on the capability for this device to send non emergency msgs. But clear that I made that up and it does not. I dont see where it has AIS, what am I missing?

Trying to multitask on a busy week and screwing up edits on my part is what you are missing.

AISLink is the product that is MOB with AIS and DSC.

 

PLB devices don't use MMSIs but SART, MOB and EPIRBs may for AIS and DSC

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On 9/7/2021 at 6:13 AM, Jim in Halifax said:

 if every hand-held VHF had its own 'roving MMSI' there would not be enough unique numbers available in the system.

I am not sure this is true.  The MMSI number space has room for a billion identifiers, one for every eight people in the world.  There aren't that many handheld VHFs, and probably never will be.  I realize that there may be shortfalls in particular countries' assigned space, so what, they can get more.

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8 hours ago, 2airishuman said:

I am not sure this is true.  The MMSI number space has room for a billion identifiers, one for every eight people in the world.  There aren't that many handheld VHFs, and probably never will be.  I realize that there may be shortfalls in particular countries' assigned space, so what, they can get more.

I read it on the internet so it must be true. From Wikipedia:

"Exhaustion of MMSIs

Because all ships on international voyages, as well as all ships fitted with an Inmarsat B or M ship earth station, are assigned MMSIs of the format MIDxxx000, a serious problem has arisen internationally in assigning sufficient numbers of MIDs to all administrations that need them...To help mitigate against MMSI number exhaustion, manufacturers are required to cripple DSC-capable radios so that an MMSI number can only be entered once, which means that a device owner cannot move the radio from one boat to another. This is especially egregious for hand-held VHF devices, for which a single MMSI number makes little sense."

Admittedly this is more of a problem for international-going vessels but the OP is talking about using an AIS/DSC hand-held VHF while roving the world. And maybe I'm missing something. But my point is that the GMDSS system was designed for the goals of SOLAS - more for commercial shipping than pleasure boaters so we 'tourists of the sea' shouldn't expect to bend it to our whims and needs.

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9 minutes ago, Jim in Halifax said:

I read it on the internet so it must be true. From Wikipedia:

"Exhaustion of MMSIs

Because all ships on international voyages, as well as all ships fitted with an Inmarsat B or M ship earth station, are assigned MMSIs of the format MIDxxx000, a serious problem has arisen internationally in assigning sufficient numbers of MIDs to all administrations that need them...To help mitigate against MMSI number exhaustion, manufacturers are required to cripple DSC-capable radios so that an MMSI number can only be entered once, which means that a device owner cannot move the radio from one boat to another. This is especially egregious for hand-held VHF devices, for which a single MMSI number makes little sense."

Admittedly this is more of a problem for international-going vessels but the OP is talking about a using AIS/DSC hand-held VHF while roving the world. And maybe I'm missing something. But my point is that the GMDSS system was designed for the goals of SOLAS - more for commercial shipping than pleasure boaters so we 'tourists of the sea' shouldn't expect to bend it to our whims and needs.

Yah 

mmsi numbers are in short supply 

in most countries when a boat is sold , to conserve numbers , the new owner , if from the same flag state , keeps the old mmsi and only re reregisters his new ship station license with new owner, ship data .

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7 hours ago, Jim in Halifax said:

I read it on the internet so it must be true. From Wikipedia:

"Exhaustion of MMSIs

Because all ships on international voyages, as well as all ships fitted with an Inmarsat B or M ship earth station, are assigned MMSIs of the format MIDxxx000, a serious problem has arisen internationally in assigning sufficient numbers of MIDs to all administrations that need them...To help mitigate against MMSI number exhaustion, manufacturers are required to cripple DSC-capable radios so that an MMSI number can only be entered once, which means that a device owner cannot move the radio from one boat to another. This is especially egregious for hand-held VHF devices, for which a single MMSI number makes little sense."

Admittedly this is more of a problem for international-going vessels but the OP is talking about using an AIS/DSC hand-held VHF while roving the world. And maybe I'm missing something. But my point is that the GMDSS system was designed for the goals of SOLAS - more for commercial shipping than pleasure boaters so we 'tourists of the sea' shouldn't expect to bend it to our whims and needs.

The single MMSI number per radio is possibly a manufacturer option to some extent. I think Standard Horizon and some others are single number, but Icom lets you change the number once.

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10 hours ago, Ishmael said:

The single MMSI number per radio is possibly a manufacturer option to some extent. I think Standard Horizon and some others are single number, but Icom lets you change the number once.

Mine didn't.  I had to send it back to the local service, which was luckily less than 100 km away.  I got it back in two days.

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So the application includes an option for a “portable” ship station license.  What exactly is a “portable” ship station license if it isn’t for a portable VHF?

https://transition.fcc.gov/Forms/Form605/605b.pdf
 

 

Second question, say I registered an MMSI number to a particular US flagged vessel then entered that MMSI number in my handheld VHS with DSC capability and then took my handheld VHS with me on a charter trip somewhere in the world and was unfortunate enough to have to use the distress call, would the recuse personnel care that I was on a different boat at the time that I sent the distress signal so long as it was a real emergency?   It would seem that the overriding issue be that lives were at serious risk and rescue personnel were able to reach them because of the gps coordinates in the DSC signal?

Would binging a VHF with DSC capability registered to a different boat be a serious violation of some kind?  Serious enough that I would wish I hadn’t done it even if doing so saved my life?

 

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On 9/7/2021 at 4:13 AM, Jim in Halifax said:

MMSI (Maritime Mobile Safety Identity) is part of the DSC (Digital Selective Calling) protocol, which is part of the GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress & Safety System) adopted by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) in 1988 from Chapter IV of the International Convention for SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) in 1974. All this is to say that the issue is an international standard, managed by national entities within the IMO member countries. Neither the FCC, nor radio manufacturers, nor end users can decide how the protocols including MMSI should be managed. MMSI are intended as unique identifiers for ship radio stations programmed in their transmitters, including hand-held VHFs. In fact, if every hand-held VHF had its own 'roving MMSI' there would not be enough unique numbers available in the system. If someone needs to be reachable / trackable and capable of sending a (distress) message by a portable radio device as they 'globe-trot', they should be using commercial services such as SPOT, inReach, Zoleo, etc. Bottom line: if you and your 'ship' with its radio equipment are not physically with you in national or international waters, you should not be using MMSI/DSC radio - you are jeopardizing your safety and the effectiveness of GMDSS by short-circuiting the system.

I have heard SPOT did a lousy job of helping the crew about the AEGEAN.  
 

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.ocregister.com/2012/10/31/report-newport-to-ensenada-sailboat-likely-sank-after-human-error/amp/

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1 hour ago, Tharsheblows said:

...Second question, say I registered an MMSI number to a particular US flagged vessel then entered that MMSI number in my handheld VHS with DSC capability and then took my handheld VHS with me on a charter trip somewhere in the world and was unfortunate enough to have to use the distress call, would the recuse personnel care that I was on a different boat at the time that I sent the distress signal so long as it was a real emergency?   It would seem that the overriding issue be that lives were at serious risk and rescue personnel were able to reach them because of the gps coordinates in the DSC signal?

Would binging a VHF with DSC capability registered to a different boat be a serious violation of some kind?  Serious enough that I would wish I hadn’t done it even if doing so saved my life?

 

It seems unlikely to me that any government body would take punitive action if you breached radio regulations to initiate a successful outcome in a serious and life-threatening situation. But a more relevant question is: why would you want to declare a Mayday with a 5 watt handheld VHF when there is a full power ship's VHF available to you? Even on a shitty charter boat VHF in, say, Greece you are more likely to get your distress message out and heard on the ship's VHF than on your hand held. Sure, try the portable VHF if no reply and definitely take it in the liferaft or dinghy with you, but know its capabilities are limited compared to a 25 watt unit running off a 12 volt battery with an antenna with at least 3 dB of gain (typical sailboat set up).

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Jim, if I was on the boat I'd use the ship's radio but if I fell in the water and all I had was my handheld I would be thrilled to have it, fuck the penalties.

Based on my interactions with coastguard personnel I've concluded that they are more concerned with knowing if it is a real emergency, and what to look for, than they are in enforcing rules.  If they picked up a DSC emergency call they would presumably call you back on the radio and ask for details... 

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5 hours ago, Jim in Halifax said:

It seems unlikely to me that any government body would take punitive action if you breached radio regulations to initiate a successful outcome in a serious and life-threatening situation. But a more relevant question is: why would you want to declare a Mayday with a 5 watt handheld VHF when there is a full power ship's VHF available to you? Even on a shitty charter boat VHF in, say, Greece you are more likely to get your distress message out and heard on the ship's VHF than on your hand held. Sure, try the portable VHF if no reply and definitely take it in the liferaft or dinghy with you, but know its capabilities are limited compared to a 25 watt unit running off a 12 volt battery with an antenna with at least 3 dB of gain (typical sailboat set up).

I agree the boat’s mains radio is way better…if it is working.  In a charter situation you never know the state of the equipment you will get.   (I admit the radios usually work just fine but it is a gamble each time)

Also, the electrical system on a boat is usually done as soon as the boat batteries reach water (which is usually pretty early in your typical disaster scenario), and further, the boat’s main radio stays with the boat so if you are in your dingy or life raft then you wouldn’t have your boat’s main radio anymore.

It is a just a good idea to have a good portable VHS and if it has DSC capability why not make sure it works?

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3 hours ago, sculpin said:

Jim, if I was on the boat I'd use the ship's radio but if I fell in the water and all I had was my handheld I would be thrilled to have it, fuck the penalties.

Based on my interactions with coastguard personnel I've concluded that they are more concerned with knowing if it is a real emergency, and what to look for, than they are in enforcing rules.  If they picked up a DSC emergency call they would presumably call you back on the radio and ask for details... 

That’s is my feeling as well.  A VHF is very handy and if it has DCS, why not make sure it’s working.  And if I really needed to be rescued, I probably would not mind any hassle afterwards.

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55 minutes ago, slug zitski said:

If you had 10 crew and everyone had a different mmsi number it would be a mess 

as far as I know a handheld marine radio can only be operated with the ships radio station license 

 

That's probably true but its a silly reason to object. 

Are you saying that it would be better to have ten people in a life raft without DSC capability so potential rescuers would have to guess where exactly to deploy resources, rather than having 10 people in a life raft with 10 DSC signals all transmitting distress signals with virtually the same gps coordinates so rescuers would have the exact coordinates of the lives in danger?

And we were never talking about EACH crew member having a DSC capable VHF radio and a registered portable ship station (that's probably north of $500 to set up)  We are talking about having ONE DSC capable VHF radio that can be owned by me and in my control so I can confirm it is in good working order before leaving shore with friends and family on a charter boat that is in an unconfirmed state of seaworthiness.

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In an emergency you're allowed to break any radio rules you want to get help. Like having a ham radio and broadcasting on SSB channels. Or using a SSB even if you don't have an operator's license.

If you have a handheld VHF with DSC on a boat charter and you use it, the only MMSI interaction with the rest of the world would be MAYBE a coast guard seeing a mayday DSC call from the wrong boat. The DSC call will give the GPS coordinates of the radio, MMSI number, and nature of distress (if the radio is even programmed that way to select from "fire/sinking/etc". 

A voice call is far more likely to be effective and paid attention to as I have said, and that doesn't involve MMSI numbers. 

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4 minutes ago, Zonker said:

In an emergency you're allowed to break any radio rules you want to get help. Like having a ham radio and broadcasting on SSB channels. Or using a SSB even if you don't have an operator's license.

If you have a handheld VHF with DSC on a boat charter and you use it, the only MMSI interaction with the rest of the world would be MAYBE a coast guard seeing a mayday DSC call from the wrong boat. The DSC call will give the GPS coordinates of the radio, MMSI number, and nature of distress (if the radio is even programmed that way to select from "fire/sinking/etc". 

A voice call is far more likely to be effective and paid attention to as I have said, and that doesn't involve MMSI numbers. 

That makes complete sense but I still have the problem of whether or not my DSC distress button would actually work if/when pressed in foreign waters. 

If I was sinking or in trouble to the point that I thought rescue was necessary in foreign waters, I would:

1) make a verbal Mayday call from my main radio (25 watt wired in radio) and press the charter boats DSC distress signal (if it had one and if it was registered and working;

2) press my PLB (which operates through the satellite system and hopefully the US authorities would call the local rescue authorities close to where ever I was);

3) use my hand held VHF to continue a verbal Mayday after the wired in radio was dead or not with me; and

4) press the DSC distress button on my hand held VHF so that the local authorities would have my gps coordinates.

 

The entire point of my concern is that it is much more likely that a local authorities (or even private commercial or recreational boaters) in a foreign country hear me on VHF well before anyone gets an official phone call from the United States becasue of my plb signal and it is very difficult to "find" someone in the ocean even if you can hear them speak on a VHF.  Having a hand held VHF with a DSC distress button transmit your current gps coordinates to individuals who are close by is a huge safety advantage. 

But is it my understanding that the DSC on handheld VHF radios do not work in foreign countries unless you have an MMSI number, therefore i need a ship station license somehow.  It would be nice if it could be "portable" ship station license and not connected to a some US flagged boat that I will almost certainly not be on if/when I ever press the distress button, but if that is the only way to make the DSC distress button on my VHS hand held work in foreign waters  then I suppose I can accept that solution and deal with the bureaucratic fallout if/when I ever press the button.

 

 

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Handheld VHF radios are most useful for communicating with SAR aircraft from the water or liferaft in an abandon ship scenario. VHF FM transmission follows along the line of sight. A shore station with an antenna tower and a whip on top of a boat mast can communicate over long distances, perhaps 50 miles or more. A handheld VHF is limited in power and visible horizon. Because the antenna is short and you are at water level, horizontal range is typically limited to a couple of miles; no problem talking with overhead aircraft though...

Buy a simple, waterproof, hand-held VHF with good batteries and put it in your ditch bag or liferaft. Buy another and use it for talking to the crew in the dinghy or the shore party. But don't think of them as a replacements for the ship's radio, with DSC/AIS, 25 watts, and a good antenna system. You can buy two basic hand-held VHF for what you spend on one AIS/DSC unit. For foreign chartering, buy a PLB or a device from a commercial tracking service.

YMMV

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2 hours ago, Jim in Halifax said:

Handheld VHF radios are most useful for communicating with SAR aircraft from the water or liferaft in an abandon ship scenario. VHF FM transmission follows along the line of sight. A shore station with an antenna tower and a whip on top of a boat mast can communicate over long distances, perhaps 50 miles or more. A handheld VHF is limited in power and visible horizon. Because the antenna is short and you are at water level, horizontal range is typically limited to a couple of miles; no problem talking with overhead aircraft though...

Buy a simple, waterproof, hand-held VHF with good batteries and put it in your ditch bag or liferaft. Buy another and use it for talking to the crew in the dinghy or the shore party. But don't think of them as a replacements for the ship's radio, with DSC/AIS, 25 watts, and a good antenna system. You can buy two basic hand-held VHF for what you spend on one AIS/DSC unit. For foreign chartering, buy a PLB or a device from a commercial tracking service.

YMMV

I generally agree with all that, however, why wouldn't you just get a DSC enabled VHF for a hundred dollars more?

You can easily die within sight of help.  Just recently a few hundred yards off the coast of California someone was fishing off a dingy and found himself in trouble when the Santa Ana winds kicked up (strong offshore winds) creating high waves pushing him out to sea and he could not get his motor started.  He called his family and the coast guard and they came out looking for him and couldn't find him and it got dark and the water got rougher and they never found him.  They only found his dingy upside down.  I bet he wished he had splurged for DSC handheld that would have directed help straight to him.

https://easyreadernews.com/torrance-fisherman-mark-paulson-lost-at-sea-search-finds-boat-pfd-off-peninsula/

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31 minutes ago, Zonker said:

So get a MMSI number from Boat US. 

MMSI numbers from Boat US do not work outside of the US. 

My interest in the handheld VHS with DSC (iCom 94d) is that I can take it with me when I charter in various places around the world as a added safety measure for myself and my crew rather than relying completely on whatever is installed in the charter boat (which varies widely) .

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I read the previous poster who said:

Quote

Note that Boat US and Power squadron MMSI's are not added to the global SAR databases. Note that a portable ship radio license and FCC provided MMSI that is registered with the global search and rescue databases is also granting that ship radio license and would only work for US flagged vessels.  So they wouldn't be able to issue one for international charters on random flagged boats

It just means your MMSI number won't be in the database. But your radio should still be able to make non-US radios receive a DSC call won't it?


 

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1 minute ago, Zonker said:

I read the previous poster who said:

It just means your MMSI number won't be in the database. But your radio should still be able to make non-US radios receive a DSC call won't it?


 

Maybe, or maybe the DSC distress signal would simply not work.  I intend to make sure my DSC distress signal works.  If someone has first hand experience with this situation I would appreciate any info they have, otherwise I will continue to figure out how to register a "portable" ship station so that I can get an internationally recognized MMSI number.

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4 hours ago, Tharsheblows said:

Maybe, or maybe the DSC distress signal would simply not work.  I intend to make sure my DSC distress signal works.  If someone has first hand experience with this situation I would appreciate any info they have, otherwise I will continue to figure out how to register a "portable" ship station so that I can get an internationally recognized MMSI number.

I think you'll struggle to prove it will work, but I do not understand the circumstances under which the country you are chartering in will have made it not work. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but here is my understanding of how the MMSI is used in DSC VHF:

 - your ID is attached to any digital (DSC) calls that you make, the same way your phone number is usually visible to someone you call with a phone

 - that ID can then be used to call you back directly - your radio knows its number and will respond when another radio does a broadcast trying to connect to it

 - emergency calls (and maybe all calls) include your local GPS info so that you can be physically located - they also trigger automated responses from other DSC radios that here the emergency call.

 - a receiving base station can choose to decode the MMSI and try and look you up for more info. The first 3 digits of the MMSI usually indicate your country of registration, so in your case they will be looking for a US boat, and if yours is not a US only BoatUS registration you should appear in the international register of MMSI's so they'll see whatever you registered as. In Australia we can register a MMSI as a person, though it sounds like that is hard with a US MMSI at the moment, so you'll probably register as a boat

 - I see no reason why they would choose not to respond to an emergency call just because it had a foreign ID they couldn't get more details on. Particularly as this is VHF and local, it's not an EPIRB signal coming into a centralised national call center. If you have registered as a boat, they don't know that your boat isn't really there along with the radio, so it would be poor form to not respond to calls from foreign ids that might represent a real boat in their waters

 So if you've got a DSC handheld radio, I would make sure it has a MMSI of some form and take it with you, and use it if you have an emergency. It probably doesn't really matter where the MMSI came from. As Zonker said above, you are allowed to use anything you can get your hands on in a real emergency, regardless of your licensing status.

If you are planning to also use it for regular calls, I would check what the licensing rules are for handhelds in whichever jurisdiction you are sailing in. Radio rules can be illogical and different from country to country. Usually if you bring your boat along with the radio you are covered under the rules of your flag country, but bringing a handheld on its own is obviously a little different.

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17 hours ago, Mark Morwood said:

I think you'll struggle to prove it will work, but I do not understand the circumstances under which the country you are chartering in will have made it not work. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but here is my understanding of how the MMSI is used in DSC VHF:

 - your ID is attached to any digital (DSC) calls that you make, the same way your phone number is usually visible to someone you call with a phone

 - that ID can then be used to call you back directly - your radio knows its number and will respond when another radio does a broadcast trying to connect to it

 - emergency calls (and maybe all calls) include your local GPS info so that you can be physically located - they also trigger automated responses from other DSC radios that here the emergency call.

 - a receiving base station can choose to decode the MMSI and try and look you up for more info. The first 3 digits of the MMSI usually indicate your country of registration, so in your case they will be looking for a US boat, and if yours is not a US only BoatUS registration you should appear in the international register of MMSI's so they'll see whatever you registered as. In Australia we can register a MMSI as a person, though it sounds like that is hard with a US MMSI at the moment, so you'll probably register as a boat

 - I see no reason why they would choose not to respond to an emergency call just because it had a foreign ID they couldn't get more details on. Particularly as this is VHF and local, it's not an EPIRB signal coming into a centralised national call center. If you have registered as a boat, they don't know that your boat isn't really there along with the radio, so it would be poor form to not respond to calls from foreign ids that might represent a real boat in their waters

 So if you've got a DSC handheld radio, I would make sure it has a MMSI of some form and take it with you, and use it if you have an emergency. It probably doesn't really matter where the MMSI came from. As Zonker said above, you are allowed to use anything you can get your hands on in a real emergency, regardless of your licensing status.

If you are planning to also use it for regular calls, I would check what the licensing rules are for handhelds in whichever jurisdiction you are sailing in. Radio rules can be illogical and different from country to country. Usually if you bring your boat along with the radio you are covered under the rules of your flag country, but bringing a handheld on its own is obviously a little different.

I understand what you and Zonker are saying but my concern is whether or not the a US-based MMSI number will even work or be recognized internationally.  The DSC system is a bit more "computerized" than a VHF and so it might simply not work.  (For example:  while a VHF radio works anywhere, a cell phone might simply not work if it isn't compatible with the foreign country's system). 

I have heard that the free US-based MMSI numbers are not in the international system.  Does that mean that international rescue authorities will see the DSC distress call but won't know who you are or does that mean the international system not recognize the distress call?  Does anyone know for sure?

Regarding regular VHF use, I have the FCC restricted radiophone operators license.  (I always take a regular VHF with me and most countries require that license)

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7 minutes ago, Tharsheblows said:

I understand what you and Zonker are saying but my concern is whether or not the a US-based MMSI number will even work or be recognized internationally.  The DSC system is a bit more "computerized" than a VHF and so it might simply not work.  (For example:  while a VHF radio works anywhere, a cell phone might simply not work if it isn't compatible with the foreign country's system). 

I have heard that the free US-based MMSI numbers are not in the international system.  Does that mean that international rescue authorities will see the DSC distress call but won't know who you are or does that mean the international system not recognize the distress call?  Does anyone know for sure?

Regarding regular VHF use, I have the FCC restricted radiophone operators license.  (I always take a regular VHF with me and most countries require that license)

Beth was in charge of the BoatUS MMSI program for a while.

International rescue authorities will see a distress call with BoatUS MMSI, as will other vessel's dsc radios, but they will not be able to look it up to find out who you are nor be able to find your contact information. Many rescue authorities procedure is to confirm information before they launch assets (to minimize launching on false/accidental calls), so not finding that contact information may (probably will) at least delay their response time.  Most will still ultimately launch, but some if they can't confirm the information will just not.

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5 hours ago, estarzinger said:

Beth was in charge of the BoatUS MMSI program for a while.

International rescue authorities will see a distress call with BoatUS MMSI, as will other vessel's dsc radios, but they will not be able to look it up to find out who you are nor be able to find your contact information. Many rescue authorities procedure is to confirm information before they launch assets (to minimize launching on false/accidental calls), so not finding that contact information may (probably will) at least delay their response time.  Most will still ultimately launch, but some if they can't confirm the information will just not.

Agreed, the only thing I'd add though is that as DSC is layered on top of classic VHF, once you have their attention through DSC you can then have the emergency conversation by voice on channel 16 or the like. This is unlike an EPIRB where it is one way communication and they have no way to communicate back with you, and the assets are being tasked with much bigger missions, so confirmation is very important. This of course is oversimplifying the situation where intermediate radios may have relayed your DSC emergency call, in which case you are hoping to talk to someone near you. 

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