Investigations & Casualty Analysis

8/3/2017: Marine Safety Alert 08-17 – Knowing your high seas comms equipment may save your life

The Office of Inspections and Compliance issued Marine Safety Alert 08-17 Know Your High Seas Comms Equipment and How to Use Them: You Might Just Save Your Own Life When in Trouble Offshore after recent inquiries by Coast Guard marine inspectors indicate that a large number of vessel operators and ship masters continue to rely on outdated high seas communications frequencies when communicating with the Coast Guard.

Marine Safety Alert 08-17 reminds all mariners of the appropriate use of Single Side Band High Frequency (SSB-HF) radios when attempting to contact the Coast Guard outside the normal range of Very High Frequency-Frequency Modulation (VHF-FM) marine radios. It is important to note that the Coast Guard discontinued monitoring the SSB-HF frequency of 2182 KHz over four years ago; nevertheless, many mariners continue to attempt to contact the Coast Guard using this frequency. Also, many mariners attempt to contact the Coast Guard using their EPIRBs, cell phones, SAT phones, and even NOAA weather electronics. Each of these communications devices has its own limitations and specific functional capabilities.

SSB-HF communications offer a greater transmission range when other options are not available. SSB-HF radios equipped with digital selective calling (DSC) are capable of triggering an alert at Coast Guard Communications Command and are an especially reliable means for initiating communications with the Coast Guard during distress situations.

The Coast Guard keeps watch on the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) SSB-HF frequencies 4125, 6215, 8291 and 12,290 kHz in place of the old international radiotelephone distress frequency 2182 kHz. More detailed information on the SSB-HF and HF DSC frequencies on which the Coast Guard keeps watch for distress and safety purposes are listed on the Navigation Center’s website. Questions or comments concerning Coast Guard HF distress, safety and broadcast services may be sent to the Coast Guard Communications Command at

This safety alert is provided for informational purpose only and does not relieve any domestic or international safety, operational, or material requirements. Developed by Marine Inspection SME Sector Mobile and the Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis. Questions or comments regarding this safety alert may be sent to

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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