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Author Topic:   Monthly Fee To Connect GPS Position Data to a DSC Radio
chuck130 posted 03-24-2010 12:24 PM ET (US)   Profile for chuck130   Send Email to chuck130  
I am going to have my [global positioning system receiver position data output] hooked up to my [VHF Marine Band] radio for [transmission of my vessel position using digital selective calling in an] emergency. A service tech said there may be a monthly or yearly fee required for this digital selective calling service. I told him there is no fee. Just want to confirm.


David Pendleton posted 03-24-2010 01:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
You can obtain and register an MMSI number for free here:

If you went through the FCC, I suppose they might charge you but I don't know anyone that has gone that route.

jimh posted 03-24-2010 08:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
What color are the flowers on the home planet of your "tech"?
kwik_wurk posted 03-24-2010 08:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for kwik_wurk  Send Email to kwik_wurk     
The flowers are green, straight from the wallet to the till.
jimh posted 03-25-2010 07:48 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
There is no monthly or annual user-fee assessed by any company, agency, or government as a result of making a connection of a global positioning system (GPS) receiver to a VHF Marine Band radio in order to send the position data from the GPS receiver to the radio.

VHF Marine Band radios which have digital selective calling (DSC) features generally cannot make use of the DSC features until the radio is programmed with a marine mobile service identity or identifier (MMSI). A MMSI is a numerical identifier which is associated with an individual vessel, and any DSC transmission from that vessel should have the MMSI of the vessel. In most radios, the DSC features will be disabled until the user enters an MMSI.

There are several authorities from which one can obtain an MMSI. Some authorities charge a fee to issue an MMSI and some do not. The BoatU.S. organization will provide an MMSI to a registrant for no charge.

"Under an agreement with the FCC and USCG, BoatU.S. is giving boaters free ID numbers [i.e., marine mobile service identities] for marine radios with Digital Selective Calling (DSC)...."


The FCC collects a user-fee for a ship (radio) station license. I believe the fee is $160 for ten years. A ship station license is not mandatory for a ship radio on a vessel that is voluntarily equipped with the radio, or at least not mandatory for most recreational small vessels. If you wish to get an FCC ship station license, you can also get an FCC-assigned marine mobile service identifier (MMSI) with the ship station license at no additional cost.

The difference between an MMSI from BoatU.S. and one from the FCC is the the scope of the MMSI in other registrars' databases. MMSI registrations with the FCC are included in the databases of the boating authorities of other nations. MMSI registrations with BoatU.S. may not be shared with other global authorities, but apparently are shared with the Coast Guard.

If you make an emergency broadcast using a DSC radio with an MMSI obtained from BoatU.S. there is an assumption that if that broadcast is received by the U.S. Coast Guard, they will be able to access the vessel information associated with that MMSI for the purpose of identifying the vessel that made the emergency transmission.

In short, if operating your vessel in the United States, you do not have to pay a fee for an MMSI if you use the BoatU.S. organization to register.

In other countries there may be other fees that apply, as well as other rules about using any sort of radio to make any sort of transmission. In the case of a VHF Marine Band transmitter there is a general reciprocity agreement, and if your boat has a radio transmitter that is licensed in your own country, you typically do not need to obtain a new license from another country if you temporarily operate your boat in their waters. However, there is typically no reciprocity provision for unlicensed transmitters. For some boaters a good solution is to have an FCC ship station license.

Hoosier posted 03-25-2010 04:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
"MMSI registrations with BoatU.S. may not be shared with other global authorities, but apparently are shared with the Coast Guard."

Jim, do you know whether the BoatUS database is also shared with Canada?

jimh posted 03-25-2010 10:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Dave--That is a good question. You would think that it would be a relatively simple matter to make the free MMSI number from BoatU.S. be useful in both the U.S. and Canada, but, based on the wording of this answer on the BoatU.S. MMSI FAQ, I make the inference that the Boat U.S. registered MMSI will not be in a Canadian database:

"What is the difference between obtaining an MMSI from the FCC and obtaining a number from BoatUS?

"BoatUS MMSI numbers are coded for recreational vessels cruising in U.S. waters only not otherwise required to be licensed; the registrations are downloaded into the U.S. Coast Guard Search & Rescue Database (MISLE) only. FCC-assigned MMSI numbers are coded for International Waters and go into the International Search & Rescue Database (ITU). In order to be accepted into the ITU database, any FCC assigned MMSI must end in zero. This is why the BoatUS MMSI number cannot be re-used when later applying for an FCC License for international cruising."


tmann45 posted 03-26-2010 06:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for tmann45  Send Email to tmann45     
Old information, might have changed since this was published:

Foreign visitors: To legally transmit using VHF radios on a foreign boat in Canada require a valid Ship Station Licence (2003: $150 for 10 yrs) and operator's licence from your home country. Transmitting around the Canada/U.S. border is usually ignored, but make sure you follow proper radio procedures. See

So, if you are going to Canada and want to transmit or use DSC, you will have to get a Ship's Station license from the FCC, then you can get your MMSI number from them and be legal.

jimh posted 03-27-2010 07:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The operative words are "Transmitting around the Canada/U.S. border is usually ignored...."
jimh posted 04-02-2010 07:44 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Also, please note that the web site cited as the source of the information about radio use in Canada is not an official government web site. Their interpretation of the rules and regulations regarding radio use in Canada is just that: an interpretation of the actual regulations.

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