Free registrations of Digital Selective Calling (DSC) VHF marine
radios by BoatU.S., in partnership with the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Coast Guard, have surpassed the 25,000
mark, the association announced today. BoatU.S. offers
recreational boaters free registration of DSC VHF radios, which
includes providing a unique Mobile Maritime Service Identity (MMSI)
number to be encoded into the radio.
VHF radios with the Digital
Selective Calling feature allow a boater to transmit a call directly
to another DSC radio, similar to one cell phone’s calling another.
However, its greatest promise lies with a "mayday" feature that
will, in the future, also allow anyone aboard a vessel to send a
distress call that will hail all nearby vessels with
automatically-included vessel identity and location information —
all with the touch of one button.
"DSC radios will eventually take the 'search' out of search and
rescue," said Elaine Dickinson, assistant vice president of BoatU.S.
Government Affairs. "Within the next few years, the Coast Guard will
begin responding to DSC distress calls, and that's why boat owners
need to have their radios registered and MMSI numbers properly
programmed into the radio."
In 2001, BoatU.S. became the first organization to offer a DSC
VHF registration program that saved boat owners from having to pay
for a costly FCC radio license. Prior to the BoatU.S. registration
program, getting an FCC license was the only way to obtain an MMSI
BoatU.S. downloads its registration information to the Coast
Guard's growing search-and-rescue database of DSC-equipped vessels
on a weekly basis. The Coast Guard's Rescue-21 distress
communications system that ties in to the DSC mayday function is
expected to become operational within the next few years.
However, commercial vessels and many TowBoatU.S. and Vessel
Assist on-the-water assistance providers, as well as many DSC
VHF-equipped recreational boats, already monitor VHF channel 70,
which is reserved for DSC transmissions. In the interim, the
Coast Guard advises that boaters continue to use Channel 16 for
With prices now below the $200 threshold, it's estimated that
over half of all new VHF marine radios sold today are DSC
capable. The BoatU.S. MMSI program is only for recreational boats
that operate on U.S. waters; boats that travel internationally or
are otherwise required to have an FCC ship station license must
request the nine-digit MMSI number from the FCC.