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                                                                    DA 11-970

                                                                 May 31, 2011

                                             Enforcement Advisory No. 2011-07

                                  MARINE RADIO

            Enforcement Bureau Reminds Boaters of Marine Radio Rules

       Directs Boaters to Check Safety Communications Equipment to Ensure

   As the summer boating season ramps up, boaters are urged to familiarize
   themselves with marine safety communication requirements, and ensure that
   their equipment is operating properly. The FCC regulates marine
   communications in cooperation with the United States Coast Guard, which
   monitors marine distress frequencies continuously to protect life and
   property. All users of marine radio, whether voluntary or compulsory, are
   responsible for observing both FCC and Coast Guard requirements. Each
   summer, the United States Coast Guard reports a significant number of
   false distress calls and incidents ranging from a simple lack of courtesy
   to intentional interference. The Enforcement Bureau intends to strictly
   enforce the Rules related to marine radio operations. Ensuring the
   integrity of safety and distress frequencies is vital to safeguarding
   lives and property.

   What Should You Know?

   Most recreational boaters are authorized to operate VHF marine radios,
   radar, and emergency position-indicating radiobeacons (EPIRBs) without
   having to obtain individual licenses from the FCC. However, boaters must
   continue to follow the operating procedures for calling other stations,
   maintaining a safety watch, and relaying distress messages as specified in
   the FCC's Rules, available at
   Depending on the type of operation, you may identify your ship station
   over the air using your FCC-issued call sign, maritime mobile service
   identity (MMSI), the state registration number or official number of your
   ship, or the name of your ship. To check if your vessel license
   information is correct, you may search the FCC database of licensed
   stations at

     * VHF Marine Channel 16 Designated for Emergency Calls - Section 80.369
       of the FCC's Rules states that VHF Marine Channel 16 (156.800 MHz) is
       the international voice, distress, urgency, safety, call, and reply
       channel for ship, public, and private coast stations. The Coast Guard
       continually monitors Channel 16 and treats any distress call received
       as an emergency that should be immediately investigated. Prohibited
       Channel 16 communications include: false distress or emergency
       messages, superfluous communications, messages containing obscene,
       indecent, or profane words or meaning, general calls  (calls not
       addressed to a particular station), routine messages and radio tests,
       and communications when your ship is on land (for example, while the
       ship is on a trailer).

     * Emergency Position-Indicating Radiobeacons (EPIRBs) Only Authorized
       for Emergency Use - EPIRBs, devices that cost from $200 to about
       $1500, are designed to save your life if you get into trouble on the
       water by alerting rescue authorities and indicating your location.
       Section 80.1161 of the FCC's Rules requires that EPIRBs be used only
       under emergency conditions, while section 80.89(a) of the Rules
       prohibits unauthorized or superfluous transmissions. Some EPIRBs
       automatically activate when wet and others are manually activated.
       Both types can be used when a ship is in distress by emitting a radio
       signal marking the ship's location for rescue responders. Boaters must
       exercise extreme care to prevent inadvertent activation in
       non-emergency situations.

     * Registration of EPIRBs Required - Current 406 MHz EPIRBs have a unique
       identifier that must be registered with the National Oceanic and
       Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) whenever installed or replaced on a
       vessel, pursuant to section 80.1061(f) of the FCC's Rules. (You may
       now register online.) Registration will help rescue forces find you
       faster in the event of an emergency. Older EPIRBs operating only on
       121.5 MHz/243 MHz should be replaced as they are no longer detected by
       satellites, and their use is now prohibited under the FCC's Rules. For
       information on recommended monthly EPIRB test procedures, see

     * Ship Station Licenses Required for Commercial Vessels - Commercial
       vessels that are required by statute to carry radio equipment must
       apply to the FCC for a ship station license. The ship station license
       specifies the type of radio equipment that the vessel is authorized to
       use. All radio equipment must be properly licensed, and type accepted
       for maritime use. Ship stations are specifically prohibited from
       employing unlicensed or unauthorized radio equipment, such as
       unlicensed or unauthorized amateur or aircraft transceivers.

   What Happens if Users Do Not Comply with the FCC's Rules?

   Interference to a maritime distress and safety frequency, including VHF
   Marine Channel 16, is a violation of the most critical nature, with
   potential impact upon safety of life and property. Harmful interference
   can be caused not only by intentional operation, but also by stuck
   microphones on Channel 16, and inadvertent activation of EPIRBs. Harmful
   interference disrupts vital safety frequencies, and can obscure genuine
   distress transmissions. Tracking down such interference also places a
   strain on valuable resources of the safety and rescue agencies. Be aware
   that the Enforcement Bureau intends to strictly enforce the Rules related
   to marine radio operations.

   Violators may be subject to the penalties authorized by the Communications
   Act, including first offense fines as high as $16,000 for each violation
   or imprisonment for up to one year. Your radio equipment can also be
   seized and forfeited to the U.S. Government. In addition, the Coast Guard
   can recover the costs of its rescue efforts when the initiating distress
   call is determined to be false; these rescue-related costs can be as much
   as $5,000 per hour.

   What Should You Do?

   Marine safety and distress radio communications are designed to protect
   both your life and the lives of those around you - fellow boaters, friends
   and loved ones. Please take the time to learn the FCC's Rules governing
   proper radio operation and comply with them. Common sense and simple
   courtesy can help keep you from harm's way. Safety equipment is there for
   your own benefit. Your life may depend on it.

   Need more information? To file a complaint, visit
   or call 1-888-CALL-FCC. For additional information regarding enforcement
   of the marine radio rules, visit the websites below or email Media inquiries should be directed to David Fiske at
   (202) 418-0513 or

     * For information related to ship station licenses, proper use of marine
       VHF radio channels, and licensing of marine radio stations, please
       visit the FCC website at

     * For more information on EPIRB registration, please visit the NOAA
       website at

     * For more information on EPIRB and other Coast Guard requirements,
       please visit the Coast Guard website at and

   To request materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities
   (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at
   202-418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY). You may also contact the
   Enforcement Bureau on its TTY line at (202) 418-1148 for further
   information about this Enforcement Advisory, or the FCC on its TTY line at
   1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) for further information about the marine
   radio rules.

                                         Issued by: Chief, Enforcement Bureau

   See Vincent E. Aversa, Jr., Forfeiture Order, DA 11-549 (Enf. Bur. 2011)
   (assessed a $20,000 forfeiture for unauthorized operation on Channel 16);
   Princess K Fishing Corporation, Forfeiture Order, 24 FCC Rcd 2606 (Enf.
   Bur. 2009) reconsideration pending (assessed a $5,500 forfeiture for
   unauthorized activation of an EPIRB).

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                                  Page 1 of 2

                            FCC ENFORCEMENT ADVISORY

   Federal Communications Commission

   445 12th St., S.W.

   Washington, D.C. 20554

                                        News Media Information 202 / 418-0500


                                                          TTY: 1-888-835-5322