Sep 012011

A DSC-enabled VHF radio

Does your DSC-enabled radio know who you are? Of course, no rational person would overlook entering an MMSI and connecting to a GPS receiver, but of course, they do, especially recreational boaters.

Warns the US Coast Guard:

As the US Coast Guard’s new marine radio network Rescue 21 becomes operational, rescue centers can now receive instant distress alerts from commonly used DSC-capable VHF marine radios.  However, approximately 90% of VHF DSC distress alerts received by the Coast Guard do not contain position information, and approximately 60% do not contain a registered identity.   The Coast Guard cannot effectively respond to a DSC distress alert sent from such a radio.

This means that search and rescue efforts may normally be suspended when:

* no communications with the distressed vessel can be established,
* no further information or means of contacting the vessel can be obtained from other sources, and
* no position information is known.

FIRST Obtain a Maritime Mobile Installation Identity (MMSI) and enter it into your radio. MMSI numbers are issued by the Federal Communications Commission if your vessel otherwise requires a station license, or BOATUS, (, Sea Tow (, or the U.S. Power Squadrons (

.  Ensure any information originally provided is updated as changes occur. FCC regulations require that DSC-equipped radios “use MMSIs assigned by the Commission or its designees” (47 CFR 80.103(b)).

THEN Interconnect your radio to a GPS receiver using a two-wire NMEA 0183 interface on all DSC-equipped marine radios and on most GPS receivers.  Instructions should be provided in the radio and GPS operators manual.  Further information is provided and will be routinely updated in

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