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Author Topic:   Using Amateur Radio Transmitters on VHF Marine Band
Plotman posted 02-10-2009 10:44 AM ET (US)   Profile for Plotman   Send Email to Plotman  
Is it possible to use a 2-meter Amateur Radio [transmitter] on VHF Marine Band frequencies? I am licensed as a radio amateur; can I simply buy one radio that will do two jobs? I am contemplating buying an amateur band hand-held radio, and it appears from the specification sheets it will cover the marine frequencies. I have been told that it will come programmed so that it won't actually transmit on the marine frequencies. Does anyone have any experience with this?



westcoastwhaler posted 02-10-2009 11:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for westcoastwhaler  Send Email to westcoastwhaler     
Yes, it is possible.

Years ago I had an ICOM 2-meter hand held radio that I had tweaked to expand the frequency range. It worked great, although you need to have a reference chart handy for the Marine Channel to MHz conversion. For instance, Channel 16 is 156.8-MHz).

I also used a single antenna with a switch for a 2M and VHF radio installation on my sailboat. Metz was the antenna manufacturer. A good HAM radio store should be able to assist in the conversion.

jimh posted 02-10-2009 12:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Devices which transmit in the VHF Marine Band need to be [certified]. Your Amateur Radio device will not be [certified]. It will not be legal for use in the VHF Marine Band. That's why its manufacturer delivered it with the transmit function disabled for those frequencies.

In general a modern VHF Marine Band radio is quite a bit more sophisticated than a Amateur Radio 2-Meter FM transceiver, and given the low cost of a [certified] VHF Marine Band radio, it makes no sense to not have one.

A Class-D DSC radio will have a dual receiver and a sophisticated digital data radio system. It will also have all the proper frequencies programmed and organized by the recognized channels, power restrictions, country allocations, and simplex/duplex mode settings. Recreating all of that in your Amateur Radio device will take a lot of programming and work on your part.

The USCG recommends that at a minimum you equip your vessel with a VHF Marine Band radio that qualifies to DSC Class-D ratings. You can do this for about $150. I think on a cost basis, you get more for your money in a marine radio than in an Amateur Radio radio.

The restrictions on transmit are often not particularly difficult to overcome in some devices sold as Amateur Radio devices, and after modification those devices can transmit in bands where they are not authorized. However, this does not make it legal to use them. In an emergency situation the type of transmitter used would probably not be given much attention. I am certain a lot of Radio Amateurs have modified their devices to permit them to transmit on unauthorized frequencies.

Also, I forgot to mention that a modern VHF Marine Band radio will have serial data input and output circuits. By interconnecting the radio to other devices such as a GPS receiver or an electronic chart plotter, you will be able to use the radio to send or receive serial data. All of those capabilities will be lacking in the typical Amateur Radio transceiver.

pglein posted 02-10-2009 02:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for pglein  Send Email to pglein     
Possible? Yes. Legal? No. Worth it? No.
vink posted 02-10-2009 09:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for vink  Send Email to vink     
You are absolutely correct - 73,N1FQP
Plotman posted 02-11-2009 10:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for Plotman  Send Email to Plotman     

I didn't realize radios themselves had to be approved to transmit in a given frequency band.

Thanks for the answers.


jimh posted 02-11-2009 02:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
In the Amateur Radio service transmitters do not need to be type accepted or type approved. You can make your own transmitter, if you wish.

In many radio services transmitters need to be type accepted.

In certain radio services transmitters need to be type approved. This is a different (and more rigorous) qualification than type accepted.

westcoastwhaler posted 02-11-2009 06:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for westcoastwhaler  Send Email to westcoastwhaler     
Since I provided the anecdote that took the discussion in another direction, I would like to add that I had the modification done to my 2M hand-held as a back up to my on-board VHF station. This was 25 years ago.

Regardless of how I intended to use it, the FCC is very strict on transmission equipment and licensing for transmission on specific bandwidths.

jimh posted 02-12-2009 01:25 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I have been a licensed radio amateur for 45 years. Since the early 1970's my callsign has been K8SS.
swist posted 02-12-2009 01:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for swist  Send Email to swist     
The FCC is very strict on everything when it comes to marine and aicraft radio licensing and usage. Someone in my area was fined $8000 for use of a marine VHF from a shore station without an appropriate license. A lot of people think they couldn't possibly pay attention to minor rules violations by individuals. Well they can and they do.
jimh posted 02-14-2009 09:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The requirements for transmitters in the VHF Marine Band are given in Title 47, Telecommunications, Part 80, Stations in the Maritime Services. See:

The FCC does not always use the terms "type-accepted" or "type-approved" but instead requires transmitters to be "certified." Here is an excerpt:

"Sec. 80.203  Authorization of transmitters for licensing.

(a) Each transmitter authorized in a station in the maritime
services after September 30, 1986, except as indicated in paragraphs
(g), (h) and (i) of this section, must be certificated by the Commission
for part 80 operations. The procedures for certification are contained
in part 2 of this chapter. Transmitters of a model authorized before
October 1, 1986 will be considered type accepted for use in ship or
coast stations as appropriate."

Generally the manufacturer of a transmitter intended for operation in a particular radio service will provide information about the device's qualifications and certifications. For example, my own Standard-Horizon GX1500S radio includes the following information in its documentation:

Type Acceptance...FCC Part 80
Output Power...1 Watt (low) and 25 Watts (high)
Emission...16K0G3E, 16K0G2B
Frequency Range...156.025 to 163.275 MHz
FCC Type Number...K6630173X3D
Industry Canada Type Approval...511B-30173X3D

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