VHF Radio Changes

There have been changes to the VHF marine radio protocol recently. If your RYA VHF Handbook was published before July 2019 it will not include these changes. The most critical update is a change to the procedure for Distress Relay.

Digital Selective Calling (DSC) is no longer used to initiate a Distress Relay voice call and message. Distress Relay should be made by voice only, targeted to a specific Coast Station using VHF channel 16. 

Here's a link to the RYA website that explains more about the new procedure.  Changes to Distress Relay procedures

Candidates for the SRC exam particularly, should also be aware the following updates:

  • The term SART may refer to an AIS-based 'Search and Rescue Transmitter' or a radar-based 'Search and Rescue Transponder'. Both systems are now officially part of GMDSS.
  • The channels on which UK Maritime Safety Information (MSI) messages are transmitted have been changed to 62, 63 and 64. Channel 10 is still used and is also used for oil pollution operations.
  • A Ship Portable Radio Licence (SPRL) is for equipment such as a handheld VHF, PLB or EPIRB that may be used on multiple vessels. An SPRL is valid only to the extent of UK territorial seas.
  • Some VHF sets fitted with DSC now include an inbuilt function to cancel a distress alert instead of the switch-off-switch-back-on approach. Users of VHF radios are reminded of the importance of familiarising themselves with the specific equipment that they will use.
  • RYA SafeTrx has replaced CG66 as the UK's voluntary identification database.
  • Official ITU Radio Regulations terminology has been adopted to refer to urgency, safety and routine DSC calls. The correct terms are, 'Urgency Announcement', 'Safety Announcement' and 'Routine Announcement'. Previously these were referred to as 'Alerts', a term which is now reserved for DSC 'Distress' calls only.
  • An EPIRB or PLB must be programmed with a HEX ID. An EPIRB may also incorporate an AIS transmitter as well as a GNSS receiver.