How to get a ships radio licence

A ship’s radio includes MF (medium frequency), VHF (very high frequency), HF (high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency) radio equipment. Most coastal sailors will only have a VHF transmitter/receiver on board, but this still requires both a ship’s licence and a licence to operate.

Your vessel will also require a licence if it has satellite communications equipment, radar equipment, Emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) and search and rescue transponders (SARTs) registered to it.  You can download the form here. In the UK, failure to hold a valid ship’s licence is punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 and/or 6 months in prison.

Once your vessel has a ship’s licence, that licence remains valid unless the vessel is scrapped or you sell the vessel to another party. In the case of the latter, you will be required to surrender your licence and a licence must then be applied for by the purchaser. In the UK, Ofcom administers an online system. The new licence will retain the same call sign and MMSI number as before (because these remain with the vessel) plus the name of the new owner.

For more help and advice contact Ofcom.

Assuming your vessel is properly licenced, you must display a valid certification on board. Furthermore, operators of the equipment must be properly qualified to do so. In the case of most vessels, the skipper and/or crew operating the VHF transmitter must hold a valid short range radio operator’s certificate.

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