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Old 04-01-2016, 13:38   #1
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Ships License for AIS?

I've read that one needs a ships license to transmit (send) AIS when traveling internationally because it uses VHF, is this true?

I traveled to the Bahamas and didn't seem to need a license to use VHF, nor did I even hear of it until I got my AIS transceiver.

I started the process and it's about $200 USD for the license. And I guess they will give me a new MMSI too, has anyone done this and understand the whole process?

Thanks,
austin
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Old 04-01-2016, 14:15   #2
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

In order for a AIS to transmit information it needs an MMSI number.

The MMSI number that you can get from free from BOATUS is only valid in US waters.

According to international agreements regarding the operation of various radio transmitters, of which an AIS is one, it is necessary to have an FCC License.

The license is a Ships License that is only valid for the vessel and the owner, i.e., it is not transferable to another vessel or to another owner of the vessel. The fee is $200 for a 10 year license. It is also valid for all transmitting devices, including EPIRBs and PLBs.

The issue with the MMSI is that foreign governments, especially their coast guards, do not have access to the BoatUS MMSI database. If you hit the panic button on your MMSI programed VHF, they will get a mayday but no relevant information about your boat. Which is probably what you want the CG to have if you are sinking.

At least here on Lake Ontario no one seems to bother much with licenses and Canadians and Americans use the same VHF frequencies. But technically, once we enter Canadian waters we should have an FCC license.

For $20 a year to be completely legal and to have our emergency information available to the Canadian (and eventually Bahamian) CGs is a small price to pay. Especially if some official decides to get all technical about stuff and decides we were operating a radio with out a license. One less thing that for officialdom to harass us about.

"Yes, inspector, here's our station license. Never you mind about all those bottles of wine in the lockers."

The turnaround time on the application is very short, less than a few days. They email a certificate to print out.
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Old 04-01-2016, 15:34   #3
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

Thanks a lot for the reply, it's been the clearest explanation I've seen thus far... And ive done quite a few searches.

I didn't know the international MMSI could be associated with the EPIRB too. Makes me wonder what would happen with that in international waters with the free one.

It definitely seems worth it, so I guess I'll do it.
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Old 05-01-2016, 07:42   #4
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

FCC: Wireless Services: Ship Radio Stations: Licensing

Who Needs a Ship Station License

You do not need a license to operate a marine VHF radio, radar, or EPIRBs aboard voluntary ships operating domestically. The term "voluntary ships" refers to ships that are not required by law to carry a radio. Generally, this term applies to recreation or pleasure craft. The term "voluntary ships" does not apply to the following:
1.Cargo ships over 300 gross tons navigating in the open sea;
2.Ships certified by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry more than 6 passengers for hire in the open sea or tidewaters of the U.S.;
3.Power driven ships over 20 meters in length on navigable waterways;
4.Ships of more than 100 gross tons certified by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry at least one passenger on navigable waterways;
5.Tow boats of more than 7.8 meters in length on navigable waterways; and,
6.Uninspected commercial fishing industry vessels required to carry a VHF radio.
7.Ships required to carry an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transceiver by the U.S. Coast Guard regulations enacted pursuant to the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2000.

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.

Radio Equipment You May Use

You do not need a license to use marine VHF radios, any type of EPIRB, any type of radar, GPS or LORAN receivers, depth finders, CB radio, or amateur radio (an amateur license is required). Ships that use MF/HF single side-band radio, satellite communications, or telegraphy must continue to be licensed by the FCC.

Radios with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) Capability
If you have a marine radio with DSC capability, you must obtain a nine-digit maritime mobile service identity (MMSI) number and have it programmed into the unit before you transmit. Each vessel needs only one MMSI number. Prior to obtaining an MMSI number, you will be asked to provide certain information about your ship. It is important that you obtain an MMSI number because the U.S. Coast Guard uses this information to help speed search and rescue operations.

If your vessel requires licensing by the FCC you will obtain an MMSI number during the application/licensing process when you file FCC Forms 159 and 605 with the FCC.

If your vessel does not require a license you may obtain an MMSI by contacting either BoatUS, Sea Tow Service International, Inc., Shine Micro, or United States Power Squadrons. The contact information is contained in the Public Notice (pdf) announcing agreements with and the procedures for private entities to apply to issue MMSIs.

If your vessel requires licensing by the FCC after you have obtained an MMSI number from BoatUS, Sea Tow Service, Shine Micro, Inc., or United States Power Squadrons, that MMSI number cannot be used during the application/licensing process when you file FCC Forms 159 and 605 with the FCC. MMSI numbers issued by other authorized entities are valid only for ship stations that do not have FCC-issued licenses. Since the ULS will not accept the MMSI that was issued by another entity, you should not enter anything on FCC Form 605, Schedule B. Leave the field blank and the FCC will issue you a new MMSI number.

..................................................

I'm looking up anything specific to AIS, will post again when I find it.
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Old 05-01-2016, 07:54   #5
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ribbit View Post
FCC: Wireless Services: Ship Radio Stations: Licensing


I'm looking up anything specific to AIS, will post again when I find it.
In the US an AIS transponder can only be programmed by a qualified technician. Just purchased one from Defender and they would not sell it to me unless I provided the MMSI number and some other information about my boat. See AIS Data Programming Form

A huge advantage to an AIS Transceiver and a DSC equipped VHF is the ability to directly call the vessel in question. It is not necessary to hail "The big boat heading east." Using DSC coupled with an AIS allows a hail to be made directly to the ship by name.

While I have yet to experience it personally, I repeatedly hear that large vessels, i.e., freighters, cruise ships, and the like, respond to being hailed by name or by DSC more frequently than the more generic "big boat on the horizon."

The short answer to the question is that if you are going to sail in international waters it is better to have an FCC Station License than not, if for no other reason than to avoid giving a foreign official another reason to hassle you.
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Old 05-01-2016, 08:19   #6
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

Came across this, which is a bit ambiguous, and would be worth calling them for a chat:

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Radio License Information

"An FCC ship station radio license is no longer required for any vessel travelling in U.S. waters which uses a VHF marine radio, radar or EPIRB, and which is not required to carry radio equipment. A license is necessary however for any vessel required to carry a marine radio, on an international voyage, or carrying an HF single sideband radiotelephone or marine satellite terminal. FCC license forms, including applications for ship and land station radio licenses, can now be downloaded from the FCC website."

http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=mtBoater

To me that's a vessel 'required' to carry a marine radio, which does not require a license to do so, in USA waters.

As North American approved equipment may be illegal to use internationally (e.g. the EU where EU certification is required, with different for example VHF frequencies being used), I really don't see how a Station License may be a great help?

I'd definitely phone the Coastguard and/or FCC for a chat and some solid advice.

eta: Dave: "A huge advantage to an AIS Transceiver and a DSC equipped VHF is the ability to directly call the vessel in question. It is not necessary to hail "The big boat heading east." Using DSC coupled with an AIS allows a hail to be made directly to the ship by name."

I don't disagree with you. I am going to be pretty much in this predicament myself, as I will want equipment to comply with North American requirements, when I get my boat there.

Should I bring it back to UK waters, I will be faced with the prospect of having to replace it all to comply with a UK Ship Station Licence (and all gear complying with CE specifications, and badged accordingly).

It's going to be a right PITA, and I will just get a cheap but 'good enough' setup (GPS plotter, radio, AIS receiver, etc) to tide me over until I get the boat back here (if I bother getting it into EU waters at all). I would like to get an AIS transponder prior to leaving North America, but knowing my luck, it will just be a waste.

I 'might' be able to get around much of the grief, by registering with the UK Small Ships Register (Part 1) as soon as I buy the boat, get the UK's Ship's Station License sorted at the same time, and use an MMSI number I will then be able to have (I will try this route first, once I have the boat).

Unfortunately it looks like I will have to have my sister get all the necessary and essential documents, and mail them to me, before I can leave North America under the Red Ensign.

/sigh

May just head for a UK linked island in the Caribbean, where I can wait out all the necessaries, and with the documentation, pick up equipment there to get the numbers entered. But I may need the documentation to be able to even enter their waters . . . . /laughs

"The short answer to the question is that if you are going to sail in international waters it is better to have an FCC Station License than not, if for no other reason than to avoid giving a foreign official another reason to hassle you. "

Yeah if it avoids any grief at all, it's money well spent I suppose.
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Old 05-01-2016, 08:42   #7
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

Quote:
Originally Posted by theway View Post
Thanks a lot for the reply, it's been the clearest explanation I've seen thus far... And ive done quite a few searches.

I didn't know the international MMSI could be associated with the EPIRB too. Makes me wonder what would happen with that in international waters with the free one.

It definitely seems worth it, so I guess I'll do it.
Good plan as you seem to already be out of U.S. waters.

I have a federally registered, Canadian-flagged boat. My MMSI is "international", because Canada only offers the real thing, not the national subset. It's interesting to board another boat equipped with a MMSI-registered DSC radio and see your vessel's name pop up when your wife makes a call to them.
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Old 05-01-2016, 08:57   #8
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

I think we're over thinking this issue.

If you never plan to sail out of US Territorial waters then you do not need a station license and you can get an MMSI from BoatUS, SeaTow and one other place for free.

If you plan to sail outside of US Territorial waters and into the territorial waters of another country, then you should have a station license and an international MMSI.

ls an MMSI necessary, depends. It is necessary for an AIS transponder. It is necessary for the Panic Button on the VHF to work. If you are on an inland lake and you only use the VHF to find out where the party is, probably not.

And never underestimate the power of a cranky government official. We all have heard or have stories of run ins with cranky officials and to be fair, we've all had pleasant experiences with them too.
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Old 05-01-2016, 14:37   #9
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Lochner View Post
I think we're over thinking this issue.

If you never plan to sail out of US Territorial waters then you do not need a station license and you can get an MMSI from BoatUS, SeaTow and one other place for free.

If you plan to sail outside of US Territorial waters and into the territorial waters of another country, then you should have a station license and an international MMSI.

ls an MMSI necessary, depends. It is necessary for an AIS transponder. It is necessary for the Panic Button on the VHF to work. If you are on an inland lake and you only use the VHF to find out where the party is, probably not.

And never underestimate the power of a cranky government official. We all have heard or have stories of run ins with cranky officials and to be fair, we've all had pleasant experiences with them too.
This one is good advice.

If your planning on heading outside the US, then get a license and do it properly and your done for everywhere.
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Old 05-01-2016, 19:31   #10
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

Quote:
Originally Posted by theway View Post
I've read that one needs a ships license to transmit (send) AIS when traveling internationally because it uses VHF, is this true?

I traveled to the Bahamas and didn't seem to need a license to use VHF, nor did I even hear of it until I got my AIS transceiver.

I started the process and it's about $200 USD for the license. And I guess they will give me a new MMSI too, has anyone done this and understand the whole process?

Thanks,
austin
I have done this. 200 seems high but we did it a few years ago. I also was told it was needed off US shores. I think enforcement is spotty and depends on where you go. Canada requires. It covers you also for other radios; SSB, VHF, Short Wave, FM.
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Old 06-01-2016, 09:33   #11
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ribbit View Post
FCC: Wireless Services: Ship Radio Stations: Licensing

Who Needs a Ship Station License

You do not need a license to operate a marine VHF radio, radar, or EPIRBs aboard voluntary ships operating domestically. The term "voluntary ships" refers to ships that are not required by law to carry a radio. Generally, this term applies to recreation or pleasure craft. The term "voluntary ships" does not apply to the following:
1.Cargo ships over 300 gross tons navigating in the open sea;
2.Ships certified by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry more than 6 passengers for hire in the open sea or tidewaters of the U.S.;
3.Power driven ships over 20 meters in length on navigable waterways;
4.Ships of more than 100 gross tons certified by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry at least one passenger on navigable waterways;
5.Tow boats of more than 7.8 meters in length on navigable waterways; and,
6.Uninspected commercial fishing industry vessels required to carry a VHF radio.
7.Ships required to carry an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transceiver by the U.S. Coast Guard regulations enacted pursuant to the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2000.

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.

Radio Equipment You May Use

You do not need a license to use marine VHF radios, any type of EPIRB, any type of radar, GPS or LORAN receivers, depth finders, CB radio, or amateur radio (an amateur license is required). Ships that use MF/HF single side-band radio, satellite communications, or telegraphy must continue to be licensed by the FCC.

Radios with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) Capability
If you have a marine radio with DSC capability, you must obtain a nine-digit maritime mobile service identity (MMSI) number and have it programmed into the unit before you transmit. Each vessel needs only one MMSI number. Prior to obtaining an MMSI number, you will be asked to provide certain information about your ship. It is important that you obtain an MMSI number because the U.S. Coast Guard uses this information to help speed search and rescue operations.

If your vessel requires licensing by the FCC you will obtain an MMSI number during the application/licensing process when you file FCC Forms 159 and 605 with the FCC.

If your vessel does not require a license you may obtain an MMSI by contacting either BoatUS, Sea Tow Service International, Inc., Shine Micro, or United States Power Squadrons. The contact information is contained in the Public Notice (pdf) announcing agreements with and the procedures for private entities to apply to issue MMSIs.

If your vessel requires licensing by the FCC after you have obtained an MMSI number from BoatUS, Sea Tow Service, Shine Micro, Inc., or United States Power Squadrons, that MMSI number cannot be used during the application/licensing process when you file FCC Forms 159 and 605 with the FCC. MMSI numbers issued by other authorized entities are valid only for ship stations that do not have FCC-issued licenses. Since the ULS will not accept the MMSI that was issued by another entity, you should not enter anything on FCC Form 605, Schedule B. Leave the field blank and the FCC will issue you a new MMSI number.

..................................................

I'm looking up anything specific to AIS, will post again when I find it.
S'funny, to become a sailing instructor here in Ireland, I was required to attend a 2-day course for VHF Operator's License with a written and practical test at the end, by a Government-appointed examiner (a retired sea-captain). Having acquired the Operator's License I was entitled to apply for a Ship's License for my own boat(can't remember if there was a fee). During the course we were told that it was illegal to for any person operate a Two-way handheld radio without either a license or the supervision of a licensed individual, and that a boat cannot operate a fixed radio without a Ship's License. There was no mention of all the exemptions mentioned in Ribbit's post, but we were told that MMSI numbers were valid across all nations, as your EPIRB, if you have one, will have to be programmed with your MMSI number and your details sent to the UK Coastguard Agency.. All transmissions from EPIRBs, worldwide, are relayed to Falmouth (UK) MRCC, which is the international coordinating authority for all SAR operations involving these devices.
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Old 06-01-2016, 09:44   #12
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpiritofGlenans View Post
S'funny, to become a sailing instructor here in Ireland, I was required to attend a 2-day course for VHF Operator's License with a written and practical test at the end, by a Government-appointed examiner (a retired sea-captain). Having acquired the Operator's License I was entitled to apply for a Ship's License for my own boat(can't remember if there was a fee). During the course we were told that it was illegal to for any person operate a Two-way handheld radio without either a license or the supervision of a licensed individual, and that a boat cannot operate a fixed radio without a Ship's License. There was no mention of all the exemptions mentioned in Ribbit's post, but we were told that MMSI numbers were valid across all nations, as your EPIRB, if you have one, will have to be programmed with your MMSI number and your details sent to the UK Coastguard Agency.. All transmissions from EPIRBs, worldwide, are relayed to Falmouth (UK) MRCC, which is the international coordinating authority for all SAR operations involving these devices.
We have the same requirement in South Africa
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Old 06-01-2016, 11:23   #13
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

If you dig deeper into the FCC website you'll see that a Restricted Radio Operators license is required for US citizens operating a radio in other countries and for US citizens operating a HF radio in the US. Those requirements are bound by international treaties and agreements.

For US citizens no license is required to operate a VHF in US waters. There was a time when that was not the case. About 25 years ago VHF radios became less expensive and required less power, when that happened there was an explosion in the number of boats with VHFs. I think the Feds decided it wasn't worth the trouble to try and license everyone and every boat.

Domestic MMSIs were made available because ship's licenses were no longer required and there was a strong push to equip boats with DSC and especially the emergency calling feature that requires an MMSI.
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Old 06-01-2016, 11:32   #14
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

I think people are starting to mix up the VHF operators license (assigned to a person and involves a test) and the VHF station license (assigned to a VHF fixed set, no test needed just an application)

For Canadian Vessels you need a VHF operators license (Radio Operator’s Certificate – Marine ROC(M)) to use a VHF but you don't need the station license (Maritime Mobile Radio Station Licence) unless you leave the country and go elsewhere. The MMSI number is a separate entity but it's free.
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Old 06-01-2016, 12:04   #15
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Re: Ships License for AIS?

US citizens are required to have a Restricted Radiotelephone Operators License if they are:

1) Making international flights,voyages,or communications;
2) using frequencies under30MHz;
3) usingasatelliteshipearthstation,or
4) operating a vessel subject to the Bridge to Bridge Act (including domestic operation).

The key for us recreational sailors is the international provision.

Requirements for the RRO are a little on the loose side. Can you hear and speak? Keep a "rough written log?" Know about the treaties and law governing radio transmissions? And will be traveling internationally.

The fee is $65 for a lifetime license.

There must be one licensed operator aboard any vessel (or aircraft) that has a radio. As noted before, vessels traveling internationally need to have a ship's station license.

For the RRO license there are not tests. Other types of licenses may require tests, such as a general operator's license, ham radio license, etc.

The FCC really needs to develop a more user friendly website!
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