Marine Safety Information Bulletins

Performing a VHF Marine Radio Check

The Coast Guard Inspections and Compliance Directorate has issued MSIB 20-20 to inform mariners of the proper procedure for performing a VHF radio check.

Sea Tow Automated Radio Check System no longer available:

For several years, Sea Tow operated an Automated Radio Check System, which was available on VHF Channels 24 to 28 for the benefit of mariners in over 130 locations. However, on October 2nd, 2020 that service was discontinued.

How to test a VHF Radio using Rescue 21:

The U.S. Coast Guard continues to offer an automated Digital Selective Calling (DSC) Test Call capability from each of its Rescue 21 coastal stations. All fixed mount marine radios certified by the Federal Communications Commission since 1999 are required to have a DSC capability. All such radios sold since 2011 must also have a DSC test call capability. Marine radios transmitting and successfully receiving a response from a DSC test call can be expected to operate acceptably in the voice mode as well.

To perform a DSC Test Call, enter the U.S. Coast Guard’s coast station group identity “003669999” into the radio’s DSC memory. Once entered and stored, a DSC test call can be made by executing the following three steps:

  1. Select “Test Call” from the radio’s DSC menu,
  2. Select the USCG number entered into memory, and
  3. Transmit the call.

The radio display should indicate when that test call is acknowledged and display the acknowledging station’s nine-digit identity. That identity may be different than the group identity previously entered into memory.

Please use VHF Channel 09 and do not use VHF Channel 16:

VHF Channel 16 is not for the purpose of radio checks. Please use VHF Channel 09, which has been designated by the FCC as a boater’s calling channel.

Questions concerning this notice may be forwarded to Coast Guard Spectrum Management and Communications Policy Division (CG-672) at HQS-SMB-CG-672@USCG.MIL or to the Coast Guard Navigation Center’s “Contact Us” page by selecting ”Maritime Telecommunications” as subject.

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 publications, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These publications remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

1 reply »

  1. During Covid, all these considerations need to be put online. That includes training about FCC requirements for VHF radio, not to mention maintenance. Been using USCG Exam Prep as a good resource but we need to encourage refresher training online. Gone are the days of communal briefings.