There are actually international regulations
use. That's the reason US cruisers must get the licenses when wandering abroad: they are expected to have them. These regulations
are called MARCOM. In most parts
of the world both operators and stations licenses are required and include study and exams. There are different levels of certificates: MARCOM-A and MARCOM-B. MARCOM-B is required for VHF
radio's that have DSC
capability and EPIRB's. MARCOM-A is required for all SSB
, SART and GMDSS supported satellite communications
including Inmarsat-C. In Holland
, when using a non-DSC VHF, there is a simpler operators certificate but one still needs to pass an exam.
US cruisers wondering abroad can just order (and thus pay) for the operators license, without passing an exam. This means that most if not all, are unaware of the international regulations. I agree that doesn't mean much around the equator for official requirements, but it does lead to frustration sometimes when the other party is trained and following protocol.
On many occasions I heard this leading to confusion or even angry shouting about something simple as choosing a working channel on the VHF when they call someone who does know the regulations. (Like someone wrote earlier in this thread: the called party becomes the controller of the conversation and thus chooses the working channel. The reason is that he/she can check available channels before answering the call... simple and efficient and mostly eliminate the need to keep selecting other channels by coming back to the calling channel. This also explains the well known but often skipped 3 minute wait before repeating a call; the called party can be off-channel hunting for a free working channel). Other examples are choosing a duplex channel (doesn't work ship-to-ship) or channel 70 (GMDSS and not allowed for voice... doesn't even work on new radio's), bad language or even refusing to identify themselves (a big no no and reason for being hunted down by coastguard and/or navy
in (Western) Europe! etc. Most of that can be avoided by reading the course-book and spending an hour for an easily passed exam.
Another interesting rule
: traffic is commenced in the local language. If one party doesn't master that language, English
becomes the required language. Nautical English
is part of the MARCOM-A exams. Also, in International waters, English is required when both parties are of different nationalities; other language is allowed when understood by both parties.
Just try to use English when contacting the coastguard in Venezuela
About radio-nazi's: pls. don't use that word because it becomes painful for readers born close to Germany
and including Germans. I am Dutch, born well after the war but the hair on my arms rise reading the word. For some reason "gestapo" doesn't trigger that reaction even though they were worse than average nazi's... strange how feelings work.
About watch-keeping on channel 16 when underway: didn't they drop that requirement yet?