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Old 05-04-2017, 08:28   #1
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FCC ship station license for AIS?

Hello,

I'm buying a Vesper XB-8000 AIS transponder and I believe I need a license from the FCC since I will be sailing my US documented vessel in Canadian waters. I'm also getting an EPIRB to but I haven't bought it yet. I'll need a new MMSI number now as well.

I was confused by some of the questions on the FCC forms and I'm hoping someone a bit more familiar with the process can give me some tips...

1) There is a box to check for EPIRB but none for AIS. Does AIS technically fall into another broadcast category? Can I add the EPIRB number later or will they charge me again to modify it?
2) Looks like the fee is $220. Does that sound right for a recreational sailboat?
3) Will I be communicating with shore stations? I suppose I will be broadcasting my location in all directions but the purpose of AIS is to communicate with other vessels, not the shore.
4) What is the class of my vessel: Sailing ship, Yacht or Sloop? (I guess sloop is the closest even though it's a cutter rig).

If you can help with any of these questions or give any other tips on this process it would be greatly appreciated!

Jack
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Old 05-04-2017, 23:20   #2
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

You'll need a ship station license. There's no specific category for AIS. It falls under VHF. So you don't need to check the box that says you have something other than VHF, EPIRB or Radar (unless you do).

You will need an MMSI so be sure to check the box that says you have a DSC radio (no idea why that haven't updated the form to include AIS here) and that you want an MMSI.
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Old 06-04-2017, 00:13   #3
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

Quote:
Originally Posted by OrangeCrush View Post
Hello,

I'm buying a Vesper XB-8000 AIS transponder and I believe I need a license from the FCC since I will be sailing my US documented vessel in Canadian waters. I'm also getting an EPIRB to but I haven't bought it yet. I'll need a new MMSI number now as well.

I was confused by some of the questions on the FCC forms and I'm hoping someone a bit more familiar with the process can give me some tips...

1) There is a box to check for EPIRB but none for AIS. Does AIS technically fall into another broadcast category? Can I add the EPIRB number later or will they charge me again to modify it?
2) Looks like the fee is $220. Does that sound right for a recreational sailboat?
3) Will I be communicating with shore stations? I suppose I will be broadcasting my location in all directions but the purpose of AIS is to communicate with other vessels, not the shore.
4) What is the class of my vessel: Sailing ship, Yacht or Sloop? (I guess sloop is the closest even though it's a cutter rig).

If you can help with any of these questions or give any other tips on this process it would be greatly appreciated!

Jack
Restricted Radiotelephone Operator
NOTE: Aliens who are not legally eligible for employment in the United States should also use FCC 605.
New (Lifetime Permit & Limited Use) (Per Permit)
? FCC 605
? FCC 159
? Payment/Fee Type Code: PARR - $70.00 Fee




Part 80 Ship Radio Service
The instructions that follow are for filing applications. Select the purpose of filing and follow the instructions below:
New, Renewal or Renewal/Modification
? FCC 605
? FCC 159
? Application Payment/Fee Type Code: PASM - $70.00 Fee AND
Regulatory Payment/Fee Type Code: PASR - $150.00 Fee (For a new Fleet license, multiply number of stations in the Fleet by $220.00.)
Modification or Non-Profit
Note: A license is not transferable to another person or vessel. In these cases, the new owner must apply for a NEW license (see above
instructions).
? FCC 605
? FCC 159
? Payment/Fee Type Code: PASM - $70.00 Fee (For a Fleet license modification, multiply number of stations in the Fleet by $70.00. If adding
stations to a fleet license, multiply the number of stations to be added by $70.00.)
Duplicate License
? FCC 605
? FCC 159
? Payment/Fee Type Code: PADM - $70.00 Fee (Per Call Sign)
Exemption from Ship Station Requirement or Rule Waiver
? FCC 605
? FCC 159
? Payment/Fee Type Code: PDWM (For Rule Waiver, multiply the number of stations by the number of rule sections by $200.00. For Ship
Exemptions, multiply the number of exemptions by $200.00.)


Boat US members fee for MMSI is waved. Otherwise $25
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Old 06-04-2017, 09:34   #4
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

Thanks for the replies.

I found this on the BoatUS website, which seems to imply I don't really need one for Canadian waters:

I am a recreational boater in the United States but regularly go into Canadian waters. Can I still use the BoatUS MMSI?

While Canada is considered “international waters” which technically calls for an FCC Ship Station License, Canada is not enforcing US regulations. Canada also has de-licensed recreational boaters. Under international treaties to which the US is a party, you are required to have an FCC license to transmit your radio in a foreign port. It is recommended for Mexico, Bahamas and the Caribbean etc. BoatUS and the GMDSS Task Force are working to have the FCC lift the rule for Canada and the Bahamas. Also, the U.S. & Canadian Coast Guard are working together to respond to any distresses in the border waters.
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Old 06-04-2017, 09:35   #5
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

I won't be going anywhere but Canada for the foreseeable future. It would be a pain to pay this money and do this paperwork (and renewals?) if I don't really need to.
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Old 06-04-2017, 10:04   #6
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

The situation with licensing is a bit confusing, and IMHO Boat US and others who issue "MMSI light" numbers are just confusing the issue further.

Under international agreements (treaties), most categories of transmitting gear require licensiing. In the U.S., this means:

1. a ship station license; and
2. a commercial operators license for those who use the gear.

The ship station license is pricey and the forms & website are atrocious. Still, it's a very good idea to take a deep breath and apply for the station license, being sure to check all the equipment boxes (even if you don''t have the equipment yet). That way, you're covered and don't have to re-apply and pay the fee again if you add, e.g., a satellite communications device or HF radio or other transmitting device later.

The MMSI issued by the FCC is listed on the ITU international database, good anywhere in the world. The MMSI issued by Boat US is typically NOT listed.

Technically, if you don't have the proper ship station license and you have a VHF radio in the U.S. (which doesn't require a license due to relaxation of rules....actually, a confusion of the rules IMO), then you cannot communicate with "foreign stations", including that Panamanian-registered tanker about to run you down.

And, you may not in any circumstances use, e.g., a marine SSB transmitter on the MF/HF marine bands unless you have a proper ship station license.

If you go abroad, under international rules you need a ship station license to use any transmitting gear. Once you have that license, and a proper operators license, you are good ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.

The ship station license fee in the U.S. is over $200; it's stiff alright, but the license is good for 10 years. So, figure $20 per year to be legal.

IMHO, we should all stop grousing about it, get the proper licenses, and go on with other sailing matters.

Bill
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Old 06-04-2017, 10:34   #7
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

Very good info, Bill, thanks, especially the part about checking all the boxes in advance.

I took a deep breath a while back when I decided to do everything possible to be "by the book" with this boat, but understanding which regulations actually apply to me is another story. Usually BoatUS is a trustworthy source, but I guess in this case they aren't.

So now I'm learning about the need for an operator's license as well. Do you know exactly which license I need, and how I go about getting it? Do I actually need to sit for a written exam somewhere? This sounds potentially expensive as well.

This is what I get for deciding to go with an AIS transponder rather than just a receiver...
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Old 06-04-2017, 11:18   #8
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

You need a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit (RR).
It's good for your lifetime.

https://www.fcc.gov/types-licenses
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Old 06-04-2017, 11:19   #9
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

RR license. It doesn't expire and there are no tests.
The FCC site has all the info you need including a fee schedule.
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Old 06-04-2017, 12:30   #10
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

Thanks for the help!
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Old 06-04-2017, 13:12   #11
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

Quote:
Originally Posted by OrangeCrush View Post
I'm buying a Vesper XB-8000 AIS transponder and I believe I need a license from the FCC since I will be sailing my US documented vessel in Canadian waters. I'm also getting an EPIRB to but I haven't bought it yet. I'll need a new MMSI number now as well.
You will need one MMSI number per vessel. Multiple DSC devices, whether it be your fixed VHF, handheld VHF, or AIS transponder, all use the same MMSI.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OrangeCrush View Post
I was confused by some of the questions on the FCC forms and I'm hoping someone a bit more familiar with the process can give me some tips...

1) There is a box to check for EPIRB but none for AIS. Does AIS technically fall into another broadcast category? Can I add the EPIRB number later or will they charge me again to modify it?
AIS is a VHF radio. Not sure about adding the EPIRB later, as I already had mine when I made my applications to the FCC.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OrangeCrush View Post
2) Looks like the fee is $220. Does that sound right for a recreational sailboat?
Sounds right, that's about what I paid, good for 10 years. Also $71 for a lifetime RR permit. "We're from the government, and are here to help you (lighten your wallet)..."

Quote:
Originally Posted by OrangeCrush View Post
3) Will I be communicating with shore stations? I suppose I will be broadcasting my location in all directions but the purpose of AIS is to communicate with other vessels, not the shore.
You already have a fixed and/or handheld VHF, right? You should! Since AIS is considered a VHF, you have your answer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OrangeCrush View Post
4) What is the class of my vessel: Sailing ship, Yacht or Sloop? (I guess sloop is the closest even though it's a cutter rig).
I used "sailing ship" when I filled out my application. My boat is a ketch. The FCC website and forms are some of the most confusing on the planet ;-)

In summary, get a "ship station" license and a "restricted radio operator" permit, and you will be covered for all eventualities - VHF, SSB, AIS, radar, EPIRB, etc. - including foreign waters (i.e. Canada, Bahamas, and anywhere else).

And don't even bother with the "free" MMSI numbers offered by BoatUS et-al - they are a waste of time, as someone else already correctly pointed out...

Regards,
David.
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Old 06-04-2017, 13:17   #12
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

BTW: Once you have the Ships Station License, it is actually easy and free to go on line and update your information, such as adding equipment or a contact phone number. Just be sure to keep your FRN (i.e. account number) in a safe place. I'm not sure it's a good idea to check boxes for stuff that you don't have, because this is the information that will be provided to SAR if you trigger a DSC Alert. They will operate on the assumption that you have that stuff.

I was recently at a seminar in which someone recommended using the "comments" or "notes" fields in the FCC and Beacon Registries as a mini float plan for significant voyages, since you can update it at will. Nobody will look at it unless you trigger a device. Another suggestion was to use these text fields for a URL if you have an active blog or web page that would provide updated information.
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Old 06-04-2017, 13:49   #13
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

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Originally Posted by toddster8 View Post
BTW: Once you have the Ships Station License, it is actually easy and free to go on line and update your information, such as adding equipment or a contact phone number. Just be sure to keep your FRN (i.e. account number) in a safe place. I'm not sure it's a good idea to check boxes for stuff that you don't have, because this is the information that will be provided to SAR if you trigger a DSC Alert. They will operate on the assumption that you have that stuff.

I was recently at a seminar in which someone recommended using the "comments" or "notes" fields in the FCC and Beacon Registries as a mini float plan for significant voyages, since you can update it at will. Nobody will look at it unless you trigger a device. Another suggestion was to use these text fields for a URL if you have an active blog or web page that would provide updated information.

I'd never thought about using those fields for that purpose. That's a right smart idea, especially if nobody is going to miss you for some time and they can't answer the phone numbers for emergency contact information. It's a shame they can't make it so you can upload a picture of your vessel to help in SAR operations too.

The $200 fee for a ships station license is steep considering it's the same for any size vessel. It seems that it should be based on some other factor such as recreational/optional and size. It would certainly promote more people having more equipment and that money would likely be spent on equipment instead of a 10 years license. I guess the FCC needs money to operate too, but they're raking in a killing selling off spectrum already.

Thanks for the tip Toddster8, I'm going to start updating it more often.
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Old 06-04-2017, 13:53   #14
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

If you use the web page idea, you can post all the photos you want of boat, crew, etc.
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Old 06-04-2017, 14:28   #15
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Re: FCC ship station license for AIS?

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That's a right smart idea, especially if nobody is going to miss you...
Sounds like the making of a saying, "as lonely as a sailor without a float plan"

As for the expense, I'm not usually one to gripe but it does sorta feel like I am being punished for installing voluntary safety measures like AIS. Maybe a tax credit for recreational boaters is in order?

Then again, us pleasure boaters are not really the neediest demographic, so I'll pay my fees and hope that the FCC is able to pass it on to those less fortunate than myself. (like Verizon and Time Warner )
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