“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

VHF Radio for Leaving the USA


Sorry the blogging has been a little light lately.  The closer we get to leaving it seems like the less time that is available.  The to-do list seems like I cross off two things and add three.  Anyways, on to the post.

One item that came up in my research is that a US vessel leaving the country will need a Radio Station Authorization from the FCC.  If you only intend to operate your vessel within the waters of the US there is an exemption for recreational boaters.  But if you plan to leave the US then you need the Radio Station Authorization.  The operators also need the FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit.  But in talking to cruisers it appears that you get asked for the boat’s radio station authorization but not the individual operator’s permit.  So we may not bother with the Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit.

There is one significant benefit to the Radio Station Authorization, you can get an international MMSI number  (Maritime Mobile Service Identity).  Most people just get the free MMSI number from Boat US.  Which is fine if you are in US waters.  It allows you to use the Digital Selective Calling (DSC) feature on your radio.  With DSC you can call friends on the VHF and have a private conversation almost like being on a phone.  You can also use the one button SOS that sends your info to the USCG with your GPS position.  However, the free MMSI doesn’t work outside of the US.  An FCC issued MMSI will work internationally.

The process was pretty simple.  You go to the FCC License Manager site.  Click on the “Need an FRN?” link then the “Register” link.  Fill out the info.  You will get an FCC Registration Number.  Return to the FCC License Manager, log in.

Once on the FCC License Manager, click “apply for a new license” on the upper left hand side.  The next screen will have a “Select Service” drop down.  You want the “SA or SB – Ship”.  You then run through a series of questions, we didn’t have a call sign, we are not required to carry a radio but we are traveling to foreign ports, enter all your boat info, enter some emergency contact info, etc.  You end up paying two fees, the PASM for $65 (for the MMSI, IIRC) and the PASR for $150 (for the authorization).   I completed this at 6PM at night.  By the next morning I got an email with the link to my authorization.  You can then print your authorization to keep a copy on the boat.  Other than the fee it was a relatively painless experience.

2 thoughts on “VHF Radio for Leaving the USA

  1. Thanks Jesse. Great post, good info, and appreciate that you even provided instructions on how to get it done. This is on our to-do list as well and you just made it ridiculously simple.

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