Boating and navigation

These days, boats carry electronics for various purposes. The most important means of communication used in boating is a marine VHF radiotelephone. The piece of equipment is particularly important when it comes to safety issues. A marine VHF radiotelephone enables communication between a boat and maritime rescues services or another boat even when mobile phones have no reception.

The maritime VHF system is international and is generally operated with the same rules and principles all over the world. Using a maritime VHF radiotelephone requires a radio licence and a personal certificate of competence.

In recreational boating, acquiring a maritime VHF radiotelephone is optional, but on most vessels engaged in professional maritime transport the device is mandatory. Despite being optional, having a maritime VHF radiotelephone involves certain obligations, as is the case with all safety equipment.

Distress and safety service at sea and Lake Saimaa

Finland has a maritime VHF distress and safety service with continuous watch keeping. The service is operated in the Finnish sea areas and in the Lake Saimaa region. The Finnish Border Guard's Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) and Sub-Centre (MRSC) in Turku and Helsinki operate the service in Finland's sea areas through their base stations on the coast.

The maritime VHF channel 70 (DSC) and channel 16 (voice-only) are monitored 24 hours a day, year round. In addition, the Finnish Transport Agency has a safety radio network, operating in sea areas and the Lake Saimaa region. In the areas, FTA monitors distress, safety and calling channels and its own working channels. These coastal radio networks operated by the authorities have their own statutory duties.

Communications range

In addition to safety communication, a maritime VHF radiotelephone can also be used for other radiocommunications, such as communication with another boat. On the high seas, the typical range between two boats is approximately 10 to 15 nautical miles when using fixed maritime VHF radiotelephones. The communications range depends on many factors, such as antenna height.

Direct radio communication between two boats or a boat and a coastal radio station does not require relay base stations. Connections are free of charge. Coastal radio stations can be reached even far away because their receiving antennas are located as high as possible.

Maritime VHF radiotelephone requires radio licence and certificate of competence

The possession and use of a maritime VHF radiotelephone requires a radio licence. In addition, using maritime VHF channels for radiocommunication requires a personal maritime radio certificate. The licence is called a ship station licence.

The certificate for radio operators on pleasure craft is called a Short Range Certificate (SRC). There are also other kinds of maritime radio certificates that entitle the holder to use a wider range of maritime radio frequencies and equipment.

Which to get first: equipment, licence or certificate?

You can buy a maritime VHF radiotelephone before getting the required licence or certificate. You do not need to present your certificates when buying the equipment. You can apply for a ship station licence when you wish. Please note that the licence is granted only after receiving your certificate or after FICORA's register states that you have passed the certificate examination.

Maritime radio examinations

In Finland, FICORA organises all maritime radio examinations and issues the certificates. To get a certificate, you must pass the relevant examination.

Using a maritime VHF radiotelephone on a boat requires a Short Range Certificate (SRC). To prepare for the examination, you can study independently or take a course. FICORA recommends specialist courses.

If you choose to study on your own, you can use FICORA's "Rannikkolaivurin VHF-radioliikenneopas" (Handbook of VHF radio communication for coastal navigators) as learning material. The handbook is available in Finnish and in Swedish. You can order a printed copy of the guide from FICORA. The printed copy is subject to a charge. You can also download an electronic version of the guide, free of charge, on the FICORA website.

Download handbook [pdf, 1 MB](in Finnish)

The examinations always include a pre-examination lecture given by the examiner. During the lecture, you can ask questions, especially if you have studied on your own and find certain matters unclear.

Examinations are organised in different places around Finland. You can take the examination in Finnish or Swedish. It is also possible to take the examination in English. In order to arrange that, please contact FICORA in advance.

Registering for SRC examination

Examinations in Helsinki, tel. +358 295 390 242.

To register for examinations in other towns, please contact the local examiner.

Examination locations and contact details

Applying for a ship station licence

The licence application forms are available in the "Our services" section. When processing a licence application, FICORA checks that the applicant holds the relevant maritime radio certificate or has passed the examination. If the applicant is not a private person, the application must include the details of the person who is responsible for operating radiocommunications on board the vessel. The responsible radio operator must hold the appropriate certificate.

Our services, radio licences

Equipment subject to a licence on board a vessel

The ship station licence must correspond to the vessel's radio station equipment. Only devices that include a transmitter are subject to a licence. When filling out the licence application, please include all transmitters that are operated on maritime radio frequencies. In addition to a maritime VHF radiotelephone, maritime transmitters include the following:

  • EPIRB emergency beacons
  • AIS transmitters
  • Inmarsat satellite transmitters
  • navigation radars
  • MF/HF radiotelephones
  • portable maritime VHF radiotelephones
  • UHF radiotelephones (maritime frequencies)
  • Personal locating devices (maritime frequencies).

Using an MF/HF radiotelephone requires at least a Long Range Certificate (LRC). For now, portable maritime VHF radiotelephones only require a ship station licence.

Licence, examination and certificate fees

The ship station licence is subject to a frequency fee. The fee is paid for one year at a time. The fee is not based on calender years but is paid from the beginning of the period of validity of the licence.

Examination and certificate fees are charged only once. Once you have passed your examination, you receive the certificate and an invoice for the examination and certificate fees by post.

The fees FICORA charges for examinations, certificates and licences are always based on the current decree on FICORA's frequency and other fees as issued by the Ministry of Transport and Communications:

  • Short Range Certificate per examination €45.40
  • Long Range Certificate per examination €67.30
  • Certificate fee (all certificates) €43.75
  • Ship station licence including one of the following transmitters or combinations thereof (VHF, EPIRB, AIS, radar) €19.43.

To check your annual frequency fee, please use the frequency fee calculator (in Finnish).

DSC function and MMSI number

These days, the Digital Selective Calling (DSC) function is a standard feature in fixed maritime VHF radiotelephones. The most important DSC feature is the ability to quickly send a distress alert by pressing the distress button. If a maritime VHF/DSC phone is connected to a satellite positioning receiver (e.g. a GPS receiver), the distress alert will also include the coordinates of the vessel's exact location.

Using the DSC function requires that the unique Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number granted in connection with the licence is programmed in the DSC device. When applicable, the MMSI number of a boat is included in the ship station licence. The same MMSI number is used for maritime VHF/DSC radiotelephones, EPIRBs and AIS transmitters to identify the ship station in question.

Some portable maritime VHF radiotelephones also include DSC function. If a boat carries a DSC capable portable radiotelephone, the device will be issued its own MMSI number that is different from the vessel's MMSI number. In such cases, the radio licence of a boat may include two different MMSI numbers.

Listing of MMSI numbers in use

Listing of MMSI numbers in use [pdf, 1 MB]

For more detailed information on maritime radio operations, radio licences and certificates, please see FICORA's publication "Rannikkolaivurin radioliikenneopas" (Handbook of radio communication for coastal navigators).

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Key words: Spectrum , Emergency traffic , Certificates , Examinations , Licences

Updated 12.09.2018

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