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Old 10-02-2015, 04:47   #1
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Channel 13: Absolute Must

Having a tugboat captain as an uncle has given me many insights into commercial Vessel traffic. Almost all commercial vessels use channel 13 for communication. They do not go to channel 16 and many times they're not monitoring channel 16 regularly. Many sailing people do not know this and do not communicate with them which makes it difficult for the sailor and the commercial vessel at times. In areas of high traffic like the St. Johns River where large cargo ships, container ships, tankers & tugs come and go frequently regular checking of channel 13 or staying on channel 13 continuously is the best course of action. This would also be the best course of action for any sailor on a highly commercialized route. Large commercial vessels regularly state their position and ask about other vessels presence.

I receive regular thanks from tugboats and other vessels for monitoring and responding on channel 13. They wish that others (sailing vessels) would do the same. There are other commercial channels besides 13. I recommend you know which channel is used in your area.


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Old 10-02-2015, 05:58   #2
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

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Originally Posted by Oceanbrew View Post
Having a tugboat captain as an uncle has given me many insights into commercial Vessel traffic. Almost all commercial vessels use channel 13 for communication. They do not go to channel 16 and many times they're not monitoring channel 16 regularly. Many sailing people do not know this and do not communicate with them which makes it difficult for the sailor and the commercial vessel at times. In areas of high traffic like the St. Johns River where large cargo ships, container ships, tankers & tugs come and go frequently regular checking of channel 13 or staying on channel 13 continuously is the best course of action. This would also be the best course of action for any sailor on a highly commercialized route. Large commercial vessels regularly state their position and ask about other vessels presence.

I receive regular thanks from tugboats and other vessels for monitoring and responding on channel 13. They wish that others (sailing vessels) would do the same. There are other commercial channels besides 13. I recommend you know which channel is used in your area.


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In theory, they are supposed to monitor 16 as well as 13. As a matter of practice, many do not and nothing is done about it. I had an incident where I tried repeatedly to contact a tug operator on 16 and got no answer although there's little doubt in my mind that he knew I was nearby. I later learned that many do not monitor 16 and if you really want to communicate with them you need to try 13.

Rules cease to be rules if they are not enforced.
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Old 10-02-2015, 06:43   #3
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

Outside of N. America, I don't know if ch 13 is used as a standard bridge-to-bridge. Even here, it is not necessarily the correct channel to use - if there is a harbour control or vessel traffic system in effect, then that operating channel usually takes priority. The Canadian rules: VHF Radiotelephone Practices and Procedures Regulations
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Old 10-02-2015, 07:01   #4
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

I should have mentioned that I was referring to the United States. But I did mention that each person should find the appropriate commercial channels for their area.

The truth is, according to my tug captain uncle, that commercial vessels see 16 as Coast Guards channel for emergency broadcasts. And anyone worth their salt would know that commercial traffic comes first. Pleasure vessels need to respond accordingly, as they are in the evolution of sailing and thick of things, the tail end of it all. "Or possibly learn the hard way."
Let's face it. These aren't postdoctoral individuals. They know their stuff, and don't like those that don't. If we can't seem to understand that they are commercial vessels and therefore stick to commercial channels, they are more than willing to let us learn that fiberglass is no contest for a steel hull. As has been demonstrated time, and time again.

My experience has been that I stay on channel 13, and am never surprised by a larger vessel. Especially, when returning at night, which is apparently when a lot of tugs and barges make their moves. Not to mention a few freighters and cargo ships. It also makes for a more entertaining sail (I sail). There's always something being said on channel 13.
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Old 10-02-2015, 07:18   #5
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

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Originally Posted by rwidman View Post
In theory, they are supposed to monitor 16 as well as 13. As a matter of practice, many do not and nothing is done about it. I had an incident where I tried repeatedly to contact a tug operator on 16 and got no answer although there's little doubt in my mind that he knew I was nearby. I later learned that many do not monitor 16 and if you really want to communicate with them you need to try 13.

Rules cease to be rules if they are not enforced.
I see the rules violated or ignored far more often than i see them applied appropriately.

In San Francisco bay we monitor 13 and 16. Commercial traffic tend to be more disciplined, and informative, in their radio traffic than 16.

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Old 10-02-2015, 08:07   #6
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

In the SF Bay at least, commercial traffic monitors both 13 and 14. 14 is Vessel Traffic Service. Monitoring 13 and 14 is mandatory for us. Monitoring a third channel, channel 16, although technically required is difficult if not impossible for many commercial vessels. The brain can only handle monitoring so many channels along with an already busy work load of navigating the vessel etc. This is why you quite often cannot bring up commercial traffic on 16. I appreciate it when a yacht calls me on 13 in order to make passing arrangements. I wish more yachts monitored 13.

I hail yachts on 16 first because I know the chances of them monitoring 13 are slim to none. Yachts do not answer on 16 does far more often than they do answer on 16. I see it as irresponsible to not be monitoring the VHF in areas of heavy commercial traffic.

If you are going to be out there with the big boys, you really need to be reachable for your own safety. It's kinda late when you get five or more short blasts.
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Old 10-02-2015, 08:45   #7
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

Funny as a commercial radio operator (on a very large drill ship) told me that whilst 13 is a Bridge to Bridge channel 16 is the International Maritime Distress and Calling Channel and as such must be monitored at all times.

Is this a case of International not including the US again like the IALA light system?

As it is I have my VHF set up to dual watch both 16 and 13 but have 16 as the primary. Most VHF radios should be able to do this and some can even be set up to do a triwatch.
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Old 10-02-2015, 08:55   #8
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

No, it is requirement that in US waters Ch.16 be monitored as well, however if the vessel in question is transmitting on 13 at the time, then they possibly will not hear a call on 16, though most vessels I have been aboard monitor both stations with 2 different radios. If you have one radio only, you can still scan several channels at once. If there is no response on 16, do switch over to 13, you will probably get a response.
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Old 10-02-2015, 09:10   #9
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

Most of us also carry a handheld radio so put the base station on 16 and the handheld at the steering station on local bridge or traffic station. using a handheld when in busy approaches works really well as you can stay on deck to keep an eye on things. I also have a tablet with a chart display for the same reason (don't have a cockpit plotter as I use a laptop)
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Old 10-02-2015, 09:38   #10
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

Wow, dual watch & tri watch is so archaic.

My little hh SH that's 8 years old will scan ANY channels I want it to, without going into primary mode features - I never bother with them.

SF Bay sailor for 30+ years, I monitor 16, 13, & 14 all the time, and 12 when nearing and exiting the Golden Gate.

14 will even tell you what channels the ships are using to operate with their tugs.

Even my 15 year old WM hh did that easily.

No excuse not to do so. Even without RTFM.
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Old 10-02-2015, 10:04   #11
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

Stu I was beginning to think it was just me but like you I have had older radio's monitor multiple ch's for quite some time....

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Old 10-02-2015, 10:17   #12
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

on ch 13, i frequently utilize the 'DW/dual watch function', to monitor 16 and another channel like 13...when we go up into british columbia in the summer, i put several channels, including ch 16, into the memory, then scan them...on standard vhf rigs, you can designate one ch as the 'priority' ch, then use priority scan, to monitor that channel more frequently than the others...what a lot of people don`t do, is...read the book!...i`ve had people ask me...'what does DW mean??...clyde
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Old 10-02-2015, 10:28   #13
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

I don't know about others, but I always stay on Channel 13 in a busy port like Norfolk, NYC or Baltimore. I was taught long ago this bridge to bridge channel in the sailing school.
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Old 10-02-2015, 10:46   #14
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

This isn't completely factual, and we speak from on the water experience. Coming down the river systems from Chicago to Mobile, you will find the channels that the tows and other commercial vessels monitor vary. At times on certain sections of the river system, they only monitor and respond on channel 16. In other sections they will only monitor and respond on channel 13. Depending on what state you transit, bridge tenders may monitor channel 13 or channel 09. In Florida we have seen them on both. Some monitor 16 and most do not. So a blanket statement that all commercial vessels monitor channel 13 is not correct. Locks and dams may be on 12 or another channel if close enough to cross talk. Most tows are on 13 however when we got south on the Tenn/Tom they were on 16 and below Baton Rouge channel 12 per VTS. In Mobile harbor they use channel 13, except when they call you on 16 to tell you to switch to 13. We came up the Mobile and Tom Bigbee waterways only a couple of months ago and encountered many tows going up and down the river. In every case we talked to them concerning our passing situation. We too have used channel 13 in the past and monitored both on the VHF. We were chastised by one tow for trying to call him on 13 and as a matter of fact none of them responded on 13. We were told to monitor 16, and call them on 16. In many, many cases the tows would call us on channel 16, based on our AIS signature miles before we met. Chuck
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Old 10-02-2015, 10:58   #15
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Re: Channel 13: Absolute Must

This is what the USCG says on the subject:
Quote:
Radio Watchkeeping Regulations
In general, any vessel equipped with a VHF marine radiotelephone (whether voluntarily or required to) must maintain a watch on channel 16 (156.800 MHz) whenever the radiotelephone is not being used to communicate.
Source: FCC 47 CFR 80.148, 80.310, NTIA Manual 8.2.29.6.c(2)(e), ITU RR 31.17, 33.18, AP13 25.2
In addition, every power-driven vessel of 20 meters or over in length or of 100 tons and upwards carrying one or more passengers for hire, or a towing vessel of 26 feet or over in length, as well, as every dredge and floating plant operating near a channel or fairway, must also maintain a watch on channel 13 (156.650 MHz) --channel 67 (156.375 MHz) if operating on the lower Mississippi River-- ; while navigating on U.S. waters (which include the territorial sea, internal waters that are subject to tidal influence, and, those not subject to tidal influence but that are used or are determined to be capable of being used for substantial interstate or foreign commerce). Sequential monitoring techniques (scanners) alone cannot be used to meet this requirement; two radios (including portable radios, i.e. handhelds) or one radio with two receivers, are required. These vessels must also maintain a watch on the designated Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) frequency, in lieu of maintaining watch on channel 16, while transiting within a VTS area. See 33 CFR 2.36, 26, and 161; 47 CFR 80.148, 80.308-309; NTIA: NTIA Manual Chapter 8.2.29.7.
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