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Old 05-11-2016, 11:05   #1
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Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

I seem to find myself in a catch-22 situation. I just bought a handheld HX870 to replace my old handheld. I bareboat charter once or twice a year and like having a handheld VHF. I thought the added benefit of DSC would be nice to have. However, when I went to register for a MMSI number, the Boat US site says that if I plan to visit foreign ports (which I do), then I need to get a ship station license from the FCC and they will assign me a MMSI number. Well, I don't have a boat so how do I get a MMSI number for my HX870 to use in the Caribbean? I'm leaving next week for a three week cruise in the Windwards and thinking that I probably won't be able to get an MMSI number before I leave.

I realize DSC distress calls may not result in any official response in the Caribbean, but at least other radios would receive my distress call and GPS location. Thus, it seems like it would be a nice safety feature.

Anyone else use a handheld with DSC without a boat outside of the US?
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Old 05-11-2016, 11:20   #2
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

The Catch-22 still exists, because the FCC is sitting on its hands.

MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)
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Old 05-11-2016, 11:48   #3
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

Could you register it to a kayak, dinghy or some such?
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Old 05-11-2016, 12:15   #4
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

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Originally Posted by Jerry Woodward View Post
Well, I don't have a boat so how do I get a MMSI number for my HX870 to use in the Caribbean?
Apparently the FCC does not require your vessel to be documented or registered as long as it has a name. So, I suppose, anything you own that floats (e.g., a piece of wood) and has a name could technically be considered a vessel. On your application you can request a "portable" license (type "P") that allows you to move your radio from vessel to vessel. So be creative, choose a name for your "vessel", pay up $260 (or whatever it is these days for an FCC license) and enjoy your radio.
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Old 05-11-2016, 18:01   #5
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

Let me see if I understand this correctly:

In Canada, as far as I know, the MMSI number is given to the vessel and not the radio. The biggest benefit of an MMSI number is the ability to hit the big red button if you get into trouble.
Is it really a smart idea to make up a fake vessel that can never be found in case of emergency ?
I suppose you could want and MMSI number just to be able to use DSC calls during your charter but then nobody locally knows your MMSI anyway. How about just monitoring a certain channel during your charter and you could tell people to contact you on channel x ?

I am probably missing something here but I really see no point in getting an MMSI number in this case.
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Old 05-11-2016, 19:21   #6
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

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Originally Posted by Jd1 View Post

I am probably missing something here but I really see no point in getting an MMSI number in this case.
the distress button does not work without an MMSI number.

chances are if you are using a handheld VHF it's because you are floating in the water...
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Old 05-11-2016, 19:22   #7
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

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Originally Posted by Jd1 View Post
Let me see if I understand this correctly:

In Canada, as far as I know, the MMSI number is given to the vessel and not the radio. The biggest benefit of an MMSI number is the ability to hit the big red button if you get into trouble.
Is it really a smart idea to make up a fake vessel that can never be found in case of emergency ?
I suppose you could want and MMSI number just to be able to use DSC calls during your charter but then nobody locally knows your MMSI anyway. How about just monitoring a certain channel during your charter and you could tell people to contact you on channel x ?

I am probably missing something here but I really see no point in getting an MMSI number in this case.
You are missing a few things:

1) When the "big red button" is hit to send a distress message, the radio transmits its GPS coordinates along with the MMSI. The DSC distress message is supposed to be followed with a voice mayday call on Ch. 16.
2) The FCC registration of the MMSI includes the owner's name, address and emergency contact information on shore. FCC provides this information to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which maintains a global database of MMSI numbers.
3) When a search and rescue organization in some country receives a DSC distress message, they receive, in addition to the MMSI, the GPS coordinates of the radio. They can look up the MMSI in the ITU database, receive the emergency contact information for the owner, and see that the radio license is portable (i.e., can be used on more than one vessel). This provides some indication that the distress message is legitimate.

One benefit of the FCC registration is the international access to the owner and emergency contact information in the ITU database, independent of the vessel name and official number. If you follow the procedure and supplement the DSC distress message with a voice mayday, the vessel name and description should be transmitted by voice.

A second benefit is that it makes use of the radio on U.S. flagged vessels legal in other countries.
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Old 05-11-2016, 19:43   #8
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

The most realistic solution to your problem is to charter a vessel that has onboard equipment that is registered to it. If you plan to use the vessel outside of the US you must have a station license for the vessel and an operators license for at least one control operator on the boat even for VHF.

You can usually only enter the MMSI once or twice before needing to be reset by a licensed technician. There may be a fee for having this done.

You can cause a great bit of confusion by erroneous registration information. The info you provide for your MMSI helps search and rescue find you. If you're on a different vessel than the one you've listed you could be overlooked in an emergency. Even with the GPS information there may be confusion.

You can find the rules on the FCC.gov website. Spending $210 for a ships station license to a vessel you don't own doesn't sound like a realistic thing to do. These are not transferrable and you will have to pay again when or if you decide to buy your own vessel. If my memory serves me right the restricted license is around $65 and is a lifetime that follows you. There is a possibility of registering it as a portable unit, but you usually have to explain that it is for working at a dock or marina.

A call to the local Coast Guard office or FCC office will get you a better answer than almost any forum will provide. I'd give them a call and ask them what your best legal options are. Doing it the right way could save you some legal trouble later, unwanted expenses, and losing the ability to own or operate the equipment in the future.

It is my understanding that the BoatsUSA MMSI is not the same as what you would use when traveling internationally. It's only good in US waters. You need the FCC issued MMSI that is attached to the license for international operation. They could tell you what you will need if you get a knowledgeable person on the phone.

I'm sure there are a bunch of people on the board who could give you a full breakdown of what you need. Likewise, it would seem that what your intending to do isn't legal/possible aside from a portable license.
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Old 05-11-2016, 20:10   #9
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

I registered my handheld to my 11' skiff. (Got the boat us MMSI) not sure of the "use outside waters" as I know it still worked in Bahamas water as I did a test on the banks at low power and my main VHF picked it up no problems.

Not to worried about receiving a fine for not have a radio license after I've been rescued.

I happened to be using that as a dinghy last winter, but will not be using it this year. Obviously you need a built in GPS handheld to be if much use, I think.
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Old 06-11-2016, 05:27   #10
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

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Originally Posted by Ziggy View Post
3) When a search and rescue organization in some country receives a DSC distress message, they receive, in addition to the MMSI, the GPS coordinates of the radio. They can look up the MMSI in the ITU database, receive the emergency contact information for the owner, and see that the radio license is portable (i.e., can be used on more than one vessel). This provides some indication that the distress message is legitimate.

Nothing on our ship's station license notes whether radios are fixed or portable.

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Old 06-11-2016, 07:43   #11
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

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Nothing on our ship's station license notes whether radios are fixed or portable.

-Chris
Please take a look at the FCC Form 605 Schedule B Item 5 "Type of License", which allows you to choose from "R" (Regular), "P" (Portable), or "F" (Fleet). This then appears on your (or at least on my) Radio Station Authorization in the "Type of License" field.
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Old 06-11-2016, 08:33   #12
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

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Originally Posted by Ziggy View Post
Please take a look at the FCC Form 605 Schedule B Item 5 "Type of License", which allows you to choose from "R" (Regular), "P" (Portable), or "F" (Fleet). This then appears on your (or at least on my) Radio Station Authorization in the "Type of License" field.
Ziggy has it right in this and earlier posts on the subject. Is there more to say?
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Old 06-11-2016, 09:19   #13
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

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Originally Posted by Jd1 View Post
Let me see if I understand this correctly:

In Canada, as far as I know, the MMSI number is given to the vessel and not the radio.
In Canada you can get a Maritime Identity (MI, basically the same as an MMSI for all practical purposes, but by a different name) for a handheld radio not associated to a specific vessel. These MIs begin with "8" then the country ID... so 831612345 for example.

Search for document
CPC-2-3-07 Annex I Maritime Identity Application Form: Hand-held VHF Transceivers With DSC and GNSS Not Associated With a Ship Station or Vessel

this and more information at

CPC-2-3-07 Annex I — Maritime Identity Application Form: Hand-held VHF Transceivers With DSC and GNSS Not Associated With a Ship Station or Vessel - Spectrum Management and Telecommunications


Station license or vessel not required, and these are official/international MI/MMSIs. The form does require a Province and Postal Code (not Zip), but I wonder how closely that is validated... not that I'm suggesting non-Canadians apply to Industry Canada (but I didn't see that restriction actually spelled out anywhere).


For what it's worth, I submitted an application for my handheld by email over lunchtime on a Friday, and had my number by 2pm. Not bad for free service (OK, so we pay taxes a-plenty elsewhere)!
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Old 06-11-2016, 10:13   #14
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

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Ziggy has it right in this and earlier posts on the subject. Is there more to say?
From FCC
Quote:
Using Your Radio on Multiple Ships
If you can provide justification for the use of a single transmitter from two or more ships, a portable ship station license may be issued. This could authorize various types of marine radio equipment to be carried from ship to ship.

FCC: Wireless Services: Ship Radio Stations: Licensing
Quote:
Ships are considered as operating domestically when they do not travel to foreign ports or do not transmit radio communications to foreign stations. Sailing in international waters is permitted, so long as the previous conditions are met. If you travel to a foreign port (e.g., Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands), a license is required. Additionally, if you travel to a foreign port, you are required to have an operator permit.

This clearly shows that you are required to have a ships and a operator license to operate in non domestic ports. It also shows that through the use of a portable license you could move it from ship to ship.

That much I can agree with, registering a random fictitious vessel is asking to end up in a long legal process; especially when they have given you a process to do things the right way. Because there is no technical knowledge required for this license it is a TAX. Although you would still be paying the tax, doing so under a fake pretense could be considered tax fraud in the courts. (Since the FCC isn't elected isn't this taxation without representation?)

I called the FCC and asked them about this and several other questions. They couldn't immediate answer my call and after a couple of days they called back to tell me that the portable license is the only option they see available and that this is still a grey area. They don't have a staff that is large enough to scrutinize every application and it is only a checkbox on the form. (It's actually a fill in the blank on form 605 indicating a "P" for portable)



This still doesn't explain what you are to put as the ships name information that is also required on the form. It implies that you must already possess a vessel before you can have a portable license. (I'll call them back on Monday and ask them to clarify)

A MMSI from a non-FCC provider isn't sufficient for non-domestic ports or operation (other than ship to ship on the high seas?) Those issued by BoatsUS or other entities will not be useful. The MMSI is not a license in and of itself. It is more like a wireless telephone number. Issued by the FCC it is like having a long distance carrier attached, otherwise it's local calling only.

It will be nice when the FCC stops forcing two separate licenses and they become a two part license that follows the operator like a ham radio license. It would stop all of the confusion and extra paperwork and costs associated with obtaining and using them. There's really no reason why handhelds and other devices shouldn't be easily transferred from owner to owner without needing a third party to reprogram them. There would also be no issue when chartering as long as you were within the bounds of the international treaties. Just take your portable where you needed it.

A station license is for the equipment (Not operation of it). The operators license is for the operation (use). There should be no requirement for emergency communications to pay a fee when no in an emergency. If it were an emergency you don't need a piece of paper showing you paid a tax to say "Hey, come save my life!" Even ship to shore in non emergency or ship to ship in non emergency is about safety and safe operation. It's not like you're ordering a pizza, (even if you did it's not idle chatter) you're trying to secure safe passage. It's not that hard to petition the FCC, maybe it's worth looking into so that in the future this will be a non issue.
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Old 06-11-2016, 10:45   #15
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Re: Getting MMSI for handheld without a boat

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Originally Posted by Ziggy View Post
Please take a look at the FCC Form 605 Schedule B Item 5 "Type of License", which allows you to choose from "R" (Regular), "P" (Portable), or "F" (Fleet). This then appears on your (or at least on my) Radio Station Authorization in the "Type of License" field.

Thanks, you're right, and I hadn't remembered that at all. When I had glanced at the license itself, the word "Regular" didn't stand out to me as meaning non-portable. I can only blame my memory -- which is apparently like a steel sieve -- and time passed (original licensing for this boat was in 2005).

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