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.

Who can legally use a DSC/VHF Marine Radio

Short Range Certificate, or SRC

Different countries may have their own rules about qualifications for using the Marine Band DSC/VHF radios onboard ship or on land.

Ofcom is the UK's radio licence issuing authority. Read more about Ofcom

In the UK, you can use a DSC/VHF marine radio without an SRC (or other qualifying licence) if:

  • You are under the supervision of someone who holds an SRC
  • You are using a private channel (such as Ch M or M2)
  • You are in distress

Return to VHF Radio Course webpage

RYA Radar course joining instructions

The fee includes: RYA RADAR Handbook, course pack and certificate

The venue: 1 West Street, Morecambe, Lancashire. LA3 1RB

Start time: 0930hrs   Lunch: 1230hrs

Please bring the following with you;
1) Pen & paper.
2) Course plotter (or parallel rulers) and a pencil.
3) Bring your own lunch.
Tea and coffee will be provided throughout the day.

RYA Diesel Engine course joining instructions

The fee includes: RYA course pack and certificate

The venue: Heysham High School – Important - see map & directions to reach the classroom

Start time: 0930hrs   Lunch: 1230hrs

Please bring the following with you;
1) Pen & paper.
2) Bring warm old clothes & an overall to wear when working on the real engine, which will be outdoors when the engine is running.
3) Bring your own lunch.
Tea and coffee will be provided throughout the day.

We will also provide gloves and hand cleaning materials.


VHF Marine Radio course joining instructions

The fee includes: The “RYA VHF Handbook”

The fee does not include: RYA Examination Fee and Short Range Certificate (£60)

The venue: Morecambe, unless otherwise stated. Venue to be advised.

Arrival: 0930hrs   Lunch: 1230hrs   Finish: 1900hrs approximately

Pay the RYA for your SRC Assessment (exam) and certificate
To pay by card, follow this link Paying for your SRC Assessment

Please do this before you come for the course. The receipt is also your exam & certificate application form. You will need to print it & bring a copy with you.

Please bring the following with you;
1) Pen & paper.
2) Course book.
3) RYA SRC exam application form (see above).
4) Recent colour passport photo (NOT POLAROID).
5) Bring your own lunch.
Tea and coffee will be provided throughout the day.

Listed below are some pre-course study tasks, an essential part of the course as you will be tested on these topics during the exam. This should take you about three hours to complete.

  • Read chapters 1, 2 and 3 of the RYA VHF Handbook - Answer the questions in Quiz 1
  • Read Chapters 4, 5 and 6 - Answer questions in Quiz 2
  • Read Chapters 9 and 10 - Answer questions in Quiz 3
  • Familiarise yourself with the phonetic alphabet, page 42
  • Read about the Distress Call and Message on pages 44 & 45

This acronym helps me remember the Distress Call and Message: MI MIPDANIO

If you have any problems, give John a call on 07721 891 615