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Old 15-05-2014, 10:58   #1
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MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

I recently acquired 2 new DSC VHF Handhelds
Icom M92d primarily to be carried on the dinghy.
Nautilus Lifeline - a waterproof and depth proof radio to be carried in the pocket of my drysuit when diving off of boats throut the world.

Have an MMSI from the FCC as part of my ship radio's license.

Was not clear about entering this MMSI on the handhelds. Would the handhelds be able to communicate using DSC with the fixed VHF onboard the boat if programmed with the boat's MMSI.

Nautilus Lifeline recommends using BoatUS which allows you to obtain an MMSI that is not tied to a specific boat

From Nautilus Lifeline support web Nautilus Lifeline Support MMSI

Quote Start
MMSI IN USA
Visit: MMSI Registration - Maritime Mobile Service Identity - BoatUS
Click Obtain a free MMSI number
On the first page, select US for the first question and NO for the other 5 questions.
On the second page, fill out all the required fields.
· Radio Installation Type: Portable Diving VHF W/DSC
On the third page,
· Ship classification: XXX-Unspecified
· Vessel Location: Your home town
· Capacity: 1 (or more if you regularly dive with someone)
· Remarks: This is a portable VHF for Scuba Diving and not associated with a particular boat.
You will be able to login and update the registration at any point to include current locations should they
change periodically.

Quote End

However the BoatUS MMSI are not valid in water outside the United States and both radios will likely be used outside the US in their lifetimes.

According to panbo.com the ITU has come up with a new scheme for MMSI for handheld VHFs but this does not seem to be implemented in the US yet.
New MMSI numbering scheme for handheld VHF with DSC and GPS - Panbo Forum

Finally found what the USCG recommends at Maritime Mobile Service Identity

USCG acknowledges the new ITU numbering scheme and has recommended to the FCC that it be used. FCC has yet to implement so USCG recommends all handhelds use the same MMSI as the boats ship radio license.

Here is the quote from the USCG website


Quote On
Obtaining MMSIs for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds

A handheld VHF transceiver with DSC and an integral global navigation satellite system (e.g. GPS) not intended for dedicated use on a particular ship (e.g. a diver’s radio) should be assigned a unique 9-digit number in the format 81M2I3D4X5X6X7X8X9. While currently means do not exist within the U.S. to assign such identities, the Coast Guard has been in discussions with the Federal communications Commission and others on implementing them.

In the interim, VHF handhelds used in the United States should use the MMSI assigned to the ship to which the handheld is primarily associated, even if another radio on that ship uses the same MMSI. Non-commercial users of VHF handhelds not primarily associated with any single ship may use an MMSI provided by an organization such as BOAT US, SEA TOW and U.S. Power Squadron (see above). VHF handhelds should not be used ashore absent FCC or NTIA authorization allowing such use.

Quote Off

So I will be entering the boat's MMSI acquired from the FCC into both handheld VHF radios.

When the FCC finally begins to issue Handhelf VHF MMSI it will require sending the radio into the manufacture or one of its service center to have the entered MMSI cleared so a new one can be entered.

By then there may be handheld radios which support VHF DSC, AIS and EPIRB functionality which seems to be the obvious path.

Regards

Marc Hall
Crazy Fish - Maintaining, Upgrading and Sailing a Crealock 37
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Old 15-05-2014, 17:48   #2
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

Marc,

The handheld MMSI can be same as the mothership. Either one can call its own MMSI and the other will answer. You can't change the MMSI except maybe one time. So best to set it to the same as your vessel.

The submersible radio might stand to have its own MMSI issued by BoatUS but I think I would just program them all with the same number.
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Old 15-05-2014, 18:13   #3
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

Thanks, that was helpful. I had been agonizing over whether I should have gotten new MMSI numbers for my 2 DSC-handhelds, especially if I'm out on another person's boat. When this occurs, is there some way to update the registered online info to recognize a temporary change?
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Old 15-05-2014, 18:36   #4
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

Quote:
Originally Posted by gamayun View Post
is there some way to update the registered online info to recognize a temporary change?
I just sorted through this very same question. Can't change MMSI # in handheld with DSC????

The short answer is: If you get a FCC issued ID number, then it is what it is. If you get a number from Boat US, then you can edit your profile & change the information associated with your MMSI number, as long as you remember your login name & password.


MarcHall,
thanks for posting all that useful information.
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Old 15-05-2014, 19:08   #5
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

the best thing is probably keep your emergency contact up to date with your travels. as I'm assuming they will be called when coast guard picks up a dsc call.


IE ccg - hey Bob smith, you are the emg. contact for marc, who's DSC just went off in the Bahamas"

uninformed bob "wft marc's boat is isn't in the Bahamas"

informed bob "marcs boat is still in the USA but he's on vacation there and has his heldheld with him"
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Old 21-05-2015, 13:45   #6
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

Sorry to resurrect an old thread but the title seemed most like my question and I hate duplicate or poorly titled threads and there is good info in this one.

I am in Seattle so often cruise in Canada and may trailer to Mexico or Florida/Bahamas. So I got a FCC MMSI and ship station, and operator licenses.

I see no downside to registering my hand held with BoatUS. Even if I use it for distress in Mexico, Bahamas, Europe, (chartering) etc., their coast guard will still come rescue me, Right? Is there a problem if I use a BoatUS registered hand held in another country? I still have my FCC licenses.

I don't care if they don't have my BoatUS hand held VHF registration info in the international registry, I'll just have that info taped to the radio when they pick me or my body up. They may not have my ship's information but all the FCC would take was that it was a sloop, Big deal. No LOA, no hull color, or fancy graphics the PO put on the chines, how dumb is that FCC? They can hail me as "boat in distress come back". If they don't speak English then what good is further voice communication? I imagine they can tell its a BoatUS MMSI so if they really want more info then one call to BoatUS will yield far more than the international registry.

Another question: Like others I race and charter on other boats so again I could be in one of many countries with my hand held but not on my boat. Would not all coast guards get my BoatUS MMSI registered hand held distress call and initiate a rescue?

Third question: My handheld, Standard Horizon HX851, allows me to transmit the nature of the distress with my distress button activation, eg; sinking, MOB, abandoning ship, even piracy! Would international coast guards also get this info which would aid or prompt them.

Whats the downside to registering my hand helds with BoatUS MMSI's, legal or other? Remember, I have a proper ship & operator license. Even if I get in trouble my main goal is to be saved!!! I'll sort everything else out later. Am I missing something?

Thanks for your answers,

Eric
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Old 21-05-2015, 13:48   #7
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

On your own boat, just use the same FCC-issued MMSI for your boat in the HX-851. That's what I do with mine.

The Boat US issued MMSI is not registered internationally.

Re: use of the handheld on other boats and in multiple countries, I don't have an answer. Just hope you don't have to press the DSC distress button :-)

Bill
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Old 21-05-2015, 18:16   #8
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

I cooresponded, phone and email, with the MMSI guy at BoatUS, (I'm a member). His reply has assured me that in my case a BoatUS MMSI for each of my hand held radios will be the best. Considering that he seems very knowledgeable and the position he holds I feel confident that this is good information to make a decision on.

Here's his email:

The legal requirement for international travel is that the vessel must have a Ship Station License. Its radio is not required to be DSC capable.

There is no legal requirement even to have an MMSI or any problem using a US domestic MMSI in any marine radio anywhere in the world. There is potentially a practical problem in the event of a distress combined with a communications failure (like the radio floating away, sinking, battery failure, radio malfunction, or your incapacitation). Were that to happen, the responders would not have access to voice contact or any associated data, only the last reported position.

Your registration can be edited whenever you wish, so, if you wanted to change up the boat information every time you go out to make sure the right description is available at all times, you could.

USCG (and only USCG) has access to your domestic, BoatU.S.-issued MMSI registration information, but all response authorities worldwide have a mandate to respond to all maritime distress alerts, easily identified or not, as do any mariners in the vicinity. Your radio does, of course, have to be broadcasting within range of the receiving station to do you any good. Hopefully, voice communications would remain in force, making the database itself all but irrelevant.

If the radio has a “nature of distress” option, it would apply/function anywhere. That has nothing to do with where or how it is registered. It’s simply another technological feature.

Lastly, FCC will not issue an MMSI just to a radio anyway, only to a vessel, and then only in conjunction with a Ship Station License.
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Old 21-05-2015, 22:35   #9
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

Quote:
Originally Posted by ejlindahl View Post
I see no downside to registering my hand held with BoatUS. Even if I use it for distress in Mexico, Bahamas, Europe, (chartering) etc., their coast guard will still come rescue me, Right? Is there a problem if I use a BoatUS registered hand held in another country? I still have my FCC licenses.
Eric,

I don't know why you want a different MMSI for your handheld than for your main boat radio. The MMSI can be thought of as a "personal" identifier. If someone wants to reach you they would call your MMSI and you would be alerted regardless of what radio you happen to be using.

If in distress outside the US it would be advisable to have an internationally recognized MMSI. I would not assume that an unknown MMSI will generate a response in every country. If they can't tell who you are and where you hail they might ignore the distress signal. They might come and they might not.

So I think it is best to use one MMSI and assign all your radios to that MMSI. I don't see the advantage in having multiple radios with different MMSI numbers.
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Old 25-05-2015, 19:52   #10
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

TRANSMITTERDAN,

I choose separate MMSI #s for my two handhelds because Boatus allows me to edit the info associated with those radios. I normally attach my HH to my life vest. For instance this weekend I raced on a friends boat: I edited my info to reflect that I was on the boat named xxxxxx on May 22 thru May 25 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and that it is a white hull trimaran named xxx xxxx, (call sign xxxxxxx), whos on board cell # is (xxx) xxx-xxxx and who's on shore contact is (xxx) xxx-xxxx. Had I activated a distress the coast guard would look for and contact that boat, not mine. The ICC MMSI won't let me do that. If I take the HH to Mexico next month I can still activate the distress button and the Mexican CG (as well as the boat I fell off of and anyone else nearby) will atleast know my coordinates and the nature of my distress. All coast guards (and mariners) have a duty to respond to any call of distress. Of course its another question as to if they will respond or not, but I can not control that. If I'm conscious I can also call Mayday (and converse if there is no language issue) which would certainly confirm my distress and my need of help. I might even memorize a few key spanish words for "emergency" or "help".

Additionally I would hope that the boat I fell off of would hit the ships radio DSC distress button which would have a national (FCC or other) MMSI and thus that info would be available to Mexican (or any international) coast guard. This would also confirm the validity of the distress call.
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Old 25-05-2015, 21:40   #11
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

The US Coast Guard says that if you plan to take a DSC radio outside the US or Canada (e.g. Mexico) it must have an FCC assigned MMSI. Presently there is no mechanism for assigning multiple MMSI numbers to an FCC ships license. In the future this situation may change but for now that's how it is. Consequently they recommend that all VHF radios normally associated with the boat are programmed with the same FCC assigned MMSI.

You can read their complete recommendations here:

Maritime Mobile Service Identity

If a DSC alert is received in a foreign SAR area they will see the MMSI in the ISO database, contact the US authorities who will in turn contact the numbers listed in your contact info. They will presumably confirm you are in fact traveling abroad and a rescue should ensue forthwith. No time will be lost in this process if your database info is up to date.
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Old 26-05-2015, 08:57   #12
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

This is a great discussion Dan and I appreciate what appears to be your well informed observations. I think it is obvious that I am not an expert nor well informed except that i trust that BoatUS is expert in this subject.

The phrase in your statement; "they (USCG) recommend that all VHF radios normally associated with the boat" is the nub of my connundrum. The handheld radios I have aren't "normally associated with the boat" that I may be guest crewing on. I'm just racing for the weekend or perhaps chartering for the week, (whether in Canada, Mexico, Tahiti or the US). The words of the BoatUS MMSI expert (quoted in my post of 5-21 at 1716 hours), who has been doing this job for some time, has lead me to conclude there is no down side to assigning BoatUS MMSI's to my two handhelds. His words: "There is no legal requirement even to have an MMSI or any problem using a US domestic MMSI in any marine radio anywhere in the world."

My decision is based on the distinct advantage that I previously spoke of where the BoatUS information retained in their database is much more descriptive of the boat in distress than the USCG's meager, sole, description of the boat as a "sloop", (no LOA, no hull color, no sail number, no nothing……). Further, the ability to edit my BoatUS MMSI information at will as to dates aboard, waters I'm traveling on, and extensive description of the vessel, for what ever boat I am on for the weekend, is even more valuable to me, (and a rescuer). The US Coast Guard does not allow this ability to edit. For these reasons it seems a no brainer……. until the USCG (acutally I think its the FCC) allows editing of boat descriptions.

Regardless of how my hand helds are registered, bear in mind that my fixed VHF on my own boat does have an FCC ships station license and MMSI that is in the international data base. If I am in peril on my boat I am going to hit all the VHF distress buttons aboard, including hand helds.

Now I have to think about springing for some sort of AIS and then personal locator beacons…….

Thank you for this discussion.

Eric
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Old 26-05-2015, 09:10   #13
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

The only concern I have is that the Boat US MMSI database is not available to foreign SAR entities unless something has changed. The Boat US database is not used outside the US and Canada the last I heard.
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Old 26-05-2015, 09:27   #14
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

I do understand that Dan, but they will have my location and nature of the emergency so hopefully the will respond, they do have a duty as I understand it. Plus if there is an emergency I assume the ships radio will have the proper (inter)national registration and its distress button will also be pushed. Additionally it is most likely that I will be conscious and thus be able to at least say "Mayday" and hopefully the rescuer on radio duty will know some Engilsh for further confirmation of the emergency.
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Old 26-05-2015, 11:16   #15
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Re: MMSI for DSC-equipped VHF Handhelds (from a US perspective)

Is there any timeframe for the FCC to implement the ITU changes?


It might be worth not programming any MMSI (Heresy, I know) for six months or a year, if that will allow a "better" solution at that time.
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