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Author Topic:   Using USCG for DSC Radio Checks
jimh posted 03-20-2011 01:59 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
According to information on a United States Coast Guard website regading proper radio procedures, using a Coast Guard station for a radio check for digital selective calling is permitted.

quote:
Radio Checks

Radio checks with the Coast Guard Communications Stations on DSC and HF radiotelephone are allowed.


Cf.: http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=mtBoater

I have not actually tried establishing a radio check with a USCG station via digital selective calling. Has anyone?

David Pendleton posted 03-21-2011 10:54 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
I didn't know this was acceptable, either.

I couldn't find USCG Station Bayfield's MMSI online anywhere, so I'd have to call them via telephone to get it.

I usually just hail the marina most distant to my position (and still within VHF range) and ask for gas prices, etc.

elaelap posted 03-21-2011 02:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for elaelap  Send Email to elaelap     
What is "digital selective calling" when it's at home, Jim? All I know is that out here in Northern California you'll get growled at, politely but firmly, if you call Channel 16 and request a radio check.

Tony

towboater posted 03-21-2011 02:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for towboater  Send Email to towboater     
Yes, absolutely.

I think you can call USCG on VHF 16 for any reason and then switch to another channel to discuss details. Usually 22A.

Other routine calls on 16:

Bar reports.
Report something floating in the channel that might cause damage.
Lights or buoy's missing.

The key is to plan on switching to another channel immediatly after you have established commo on 16.

Anyone new to VHF radio etiquite should also learn how to manipulate the HI/LOW transmit feature. Try to get in a habit of using low power priority and switch to high power when needed.

towboater posted 03-21-2011 03:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for towboater  Send Email to towboater     
Well, Tuco commented while I was composing...

I dont know what digital selective calling is.
NoCal may have different rules than Col Riv.

[Changed topic to talk about radio telephone procedures used by particular commercial boater in particular regions of the United States. This is an interesting topic, but it is really not on-topic here where we are discussing making DSC radio checks with the USCG.--jimh]

David Pendleton posted 03-21-2011 05:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=digital+selective+calling
jimh posted 03-21-2011 07:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Oh, yes, I have called the USCG many times on Channel 16 and advised them that I had routine traffic for them. They usually suggest moving to Channel 22-A, and then we pass our routine traffic to them. Done that many times, and there is no problem at all with that.

I was just curious how one might conduct a DSC radio check with the USCG. Perhaps you can give them your MMSI and they could initiate a DSC call to your boat. I don't know the procedure because, as I mentioned, I have not tried checking my DSC radio with the USCG local radio watch stander.

Perhaps based on the recent comments from a USCG Rear Admiral about how nine boats out of ten do not have their DSC radio properly wired to a GPS receiver, the USCG has become more tolerant of DSC radio checks with boaters.

ASIDE to Dave: Loved your URL.

David Pendleton posted 03-23-2011 12:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
I'm a little concerned that a licensed maritime professional doesn't know what DSC is.
jimh posted 03-23-2011 08:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
A fundamental problem in calling another station using digital selective calling (DSC) is to know the marine mobile service identity (MMSI) of the other station. One cannot make a DSC call unless one enters the MMSI of the station being called in the DSC radio that will make the call. With that in mind, it seems to me that in order to make a DSC radio check with another DSC-equipped radio station, one of the stations involved in the test must first obtain the MMSI of the other station.

If the other station in a test of one's DSC radio is going to be a local USCG radio station, I would assume you would have to make a non-DSC call to them and inquire about their MMSI, unless the MMSI of the local USCG radio station were published somewhere and could be obtained from that source. However, I don't know where one can obtain the MMSI of USCG radio stations, nor is any guidance given in the USCG web page that mentions making radio checks with their stations using DSC.

towboater posted 03-23-2011 09:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for towboater  Send Email to towboater     
You are correct David, I should know, I have 3 radios that are DSC equipted and I am guilty of paying no attention to the DSC radio check protocol...if there is one. I also didnt pay close attention to the topic. Apparently I have crossed up the VHF calling thread with DSC. Sorry, thanks for setting me straight.

On the other hand, as a pro, limited to local work on a river knowing all my radio's transmit and recieve properly, knowing USCG and cell is always in range, knowing every inch of both sides of the shoreline for 50 miles each way a DSC emergency locator is not a high priority for my purposes.

I certainly agree a DSC is a very useful tool and valid points being discussed and I might learn something here.
Knock knock.

Until now I contrived the DSC is a emergency transmitter beacon similar to auto activated strobe/beacon gizmo's they use outside (ocean) that have no reciever and thus no commo check unless you were able to program and transmit your vessel info via DSC.

mkj

jimh posted 03-23-2011 11:04 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Our topic here is not a general discussion of digital selective calling features. A discussion of digital selective calling features is a broad topic that would sustain many pages of comments. Here we are more narrowly focused: a recent USCG web page announced that radio checks of DSC radios with a USCG shore station are proper. We are investigating if anyone has made such a check.
David Pendleton posted 03-23-2011 11:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
So are you thinking you would hail the CG and give them your MMSI and they would ping back you using DSC?

I'll bet that would make them "grumpy."

I was thinking the other way around, but as I said previously, I couldn't find the MMSI of the station I most frequently interact with anywhere online.

elaelap posted 03-23-2011 12:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for elaelap  Send Email to elaelap     
"I'm a little concerned that a licensed maritime professional doesn't know what DSC is."

Sorry to cause you concern, David. Perhaps if your response, or Jim's, to my query had been a tad more gracious (e.g., "C'mon Tony, you know...the interface between yer GPS and your VHF"), your concern might have been alleviated. BTW, what's "MMSI" when it's at home, anyway? I guess some of us incompetent "licensed marine professionals" are having some difficulty with all them acronyms. I DO know what "USCG" stands for, however, and I DO know that where I run boats the Coasties get annoyed if they're called on Channel 16 for a radio check, pace Jim.

Tony

WT posted 03-23-2011 01:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
jimh, maybe these are the MMSI numbers for the USCG that you are looking for?

http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/rescue21/benefits.asp

Warren

David Pendleton posted 03-23-2011 01:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
Actually Tony, I was addressing towboater, since I am unaware of any maritime licenses you may hold.

It was not my intention to be ungracious, either.

Why is everything always about you?

jimh posted 03-23-2011 02:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Hmm--We seem to be getting a little bogged down in figuring out who is talking to whom. Maybe we can straighten that out in email.

Warren--thanks for that link to a listing of USCG MMSI data. It appears from

http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/rescue21/benefits.asp

that a DSC call to MMSI

003669999

would elicit a response from any USCG station that was in range. I will have to try that when I get the boat back in commission this Spring.

elaelap posted 03-23-2011 06:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for elaelap  Send Email to elaelap     
David,

I guess I figured that your not-all-that-witty response to my question about DSC made me think your comment referred to me, since I'm a USCG-licensed merchant marine officer (50-ton Near Coastal Master with assistance towing and auxiliary sailboat endorsements).

I'm even more amused if, as you say, you were directing your comment to Mike, who has had more on-water professional boating experience than just about any other CW participant...certainly much more than me (and, I somehow suspect, than you).

But thanks for the good information about how to use a marine radio. Damn, lucky I read this thread...

Tony

jimh posted 03-23-2011 09:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
For those not familiar with digital selective calling features in VHF Marine Band radiotelephony, I suggest reading the fine article at Wikipedia on the topic:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Global_Maritime_Distress_Safety_System#Digital_Selective_Calling

Digital selective calling or DSC was introduced as part of the global maritime distress safety system (or GMDSS) which was begun in 1979, some 32 years ago. For a long time commercial vessels have had mandatory carriage requirements to meet GMDSS regulations, which include DSC radios.

There is also another fine article about DSC at

http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=mtDsc

which will be informative about DSC.

David Pendleton posted 03-23-2011 11:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
Tony, you weren't the only person in this thread to indicate they didn't know what DSC was. Once again, it isn't always about you.

I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that individuals that are licensed to perform certain tasks, or act in certain capacities be aware of recent developments in their field, e.g.

Lawyers
Pilots
Accountants
Towboat Operators
Doctors

It doesn't matter how much "sea-time" you or I or anyone else has. That wasn't the point. If "sea-time" is your business, I would expect you to know about a current and relevant technology as it relates to your job.

I have to learn new things all the time. It's part of my job.

towboater posted 03-24-2011 01:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for towboater  Send Email to towboater     
Its all good.
I screwed up, typo, whatever...no prob David.

I have Western Rivers Inland Towboat Licence. The past 25 years most of my work involves assists, berthing, fleeting barges in/out and home every night. I dont spend a lot of time steering up and down the river listening to 16 chatter and DSC calling. Tho, I have run "boring long haul" Tugs many years prior. Geez, has it been that long?

Anyway, Im with Jim, lets get back to figuring out DSC radio check protocol. The DSC activation and then automatically going to 16 is nothing new. DSC activation primarily for a radio check is...at least to me.

MKJ

jimh posted 03-24-2011 07:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Here is the list of USCG station MMSI numbers from the website linked above:

Rescue 21 VHF DSC MMSI Numbers
STATION MMSI

Astoria = 003669910
Baltimore = 003669961
Boston = 003669901
Charleston = 003669907
Corpus = Christi = 003669916
Delaware Bay = 003669905
Detroit = 003669930
Hampton Roads = 003669922
Houston/Galveston = 003669915
Humboldt Bay = 003669909
Jacksonville = 003669962
Key West = 003669918
Long Island = 003669931
Los Angeles/Long Beach = 003669912
Miami = 003669919
Mobile = 003669914
New Orleans = 003669908
New York = 003669929
North Bend = 003669911
North Carolina = 003669906
Northern New England = 003669921
Port Angeles = 003669904
Portland = 003669937
San Diego = 003669913
San Francisco = 003669926
Seattle = 003669938
Southeastern New England = 003669928
St. Petersburg = 003669917
All USCG coast stations in the United States = 003669999
International MMSI number designated for all coast stations = 009990000

jimh posted 03-24-2011 10:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Newer DSC radios should have an option of making a DSC call with the special category TEST CALL. You can initiate a DSC call to the USCG RESCUE 21 radio system using their special MMSI

MMSI = 003669999

If your TEST CALL is received by the USCG your radio should get an acknowledgement reply. To perform this test you have to be in range of a RESCUE 21 installation. Most of the ocean coastal areas of the United States are now covered by RESCUE 21 deployment. In the Great Lakes RESCUE 21 deployment is working its way along the Lake Huron shore, heading North from Detroit.

Check the status of RESCUE 21 in your area from the RESCUE 21 website at

http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/rescue21/faq.asp
http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/rescue21/pdf/acceptanceschedule.pdf

Check the instruction manual of your radio to see if your DSC radio supports the TEST CALL function. Here is an excerpt from the instruction manual for a Standard-Horizon GX2100 radio which has the TEST CALL function:

-----

11.12 DSC TEST
This function is used to contact another DSC equipped vessel to ensure the DSC functions of the radio are operating.

--
NOTE
To use this feature, the radio you will be transmitting the test call to needs to have the DSC Test feature.
--

To perform the DSC test you will need to enter a MMSI of another vessel into the Individual directory or manually enter in the MMSI using the procedure below.

11.12.1 Programming MMSI into Individual Directory

Refer to section “11.5.1 Setting up the Individual / Position Call Directory”. 11.12.2 DSC Test call by using Individual Directory
1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

After programming a individual MMSI into the GX2000/GX2100 (refer to section “11.5.1 Setting up the Individual / Position Call Directory”)

Press the [CALL(MENU)] key. The “DSC Menu” will appear.

Rotate the CHANNEL knob to select “DSC TEST”, then press the [SELECT] soft key.

Rotate the CHANNEL knob to select the Ship name and press the [SELECT] soft key.

Press the [YES] soft key to transmit the DSC test call to the other vessel.

--
NOTE
After the radio receive a Test Call reply from vessel that was called, the radio will ring and show TEST ACK display, which confirms the radio you called received the test call.
--

------

jimh posted 03-24-2011 10:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
It looks like only the newest DSC CLASS-D radios will have this TEST CALL function. I have a Standard-Horizon GX1500S which is a CLASS-D rated radio, and it does not have the TEST CALL function.
David Pendleton posted 03-24-2011 10:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
My Raymarine 55 VHF does not offer the TEST feature either. It does offer the ability to make the following "designated distress" calls:

• UNDESIGNATED
• SINKING
• FIRE
• ADRIFT
• FLOODING
• ABANDONING
• COLLISION
• PIRACY
• GROUNDING
• MANOVERBOARD
• CAPSIZING
• ZOMBIES

I really don't see the utility of DSC. I know I don't really have any use for it.

towboater posted 03-25-2011 12:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for towboater  Send Email to towboater     
David, simple, auto DSC is a beautiful thing and I know it has (and will) save lives during salmon season at the mouth of the Columbia River.

VHF Ch 16 distress calls are only as good as the vessels ability to pinpoint their location. Anyone who has spent any time monitoring 16 knows the frustration USCG has trying to locate someone who does not have GPS long/lat info.

Mouth of the Columbia can be especially frustrating trying to get someone to triangulate their location when there are 200 Sport and Charter boats covering 20 square miles. Most of the time a Good Sam chimes in and resolves it.

DSC eliminates all that.
Hope you never need it.

Thanks for the MMSI update Jim.
Trouble is, I have 8 VHF radios on 4 different boats.
My personal summary is that if the radio is sending and recieving fine, I assume the DSC is working.


mkj

WT posted 03-25-2011 04:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
The DSC might be working on your VHF if it displays your current gps coordinates and if it can display your MMSI number.

Warren

David Pendleton posted 03-25-2011 07:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
I understand that when I press the DISTRESS button on my radio, my MMSI number and current coordinates are transmitted to a listening (RESCUE-21) station.

That's not what I'm referring to when I say I don't see the utility of DSC.

What I don't get is using DSC to ping another boat I want to talk to. Why not just hail them on 16 (or 9) by name?

davej14 posted 03-25-2011 07:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for davej14  Send Email to davej14     
David, "ZOMBIES" ?? You are kidding right?
jimh posted 03-25-2011 08:32 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Dave--You have become confused. The categories you have mentioned are categories of DISTRESS CALLS. A DISTRESS CALL is a special type of digital selective calling (DSC) feature. A DISTRESS CALL is directed to all other DSC radios. In a DISTRESS CALL there is an option to include information about the nature of the distress situation. The categories you listed are those available on your radio. I don't know what category of distress is meant by "zombies" except perhaps an abandoned vessel.

Most digital selective calling calls will not be distress calls directed to all stations, but will be routine calls which are directed to a particular station. Among newer DSC radios there is a special category of routine call which is designated as a TEST CALL. When two DSC radios (which support this feature) are in communication with each other, one radio can initiate a TEST CALL to the other radio, and, if successful, the other radio replies with an ACK or acknowledgment of the call, which is interpreted as an indicator of success. The TEST CALL feature provides a simple way to conduct a test between two DSC radios.

In the deployment of RESCUE 21 the United States Coast Guard has apparently equipped its stations with digital selective calling radios which support the TEST CALL function. Therefore, to make a DSC Radio Check--the topic of this discussion--with the USCG, one can use the TEST CALL feature.

There are many features of digital selective calling, and, again, discussion of them warrants a separate thread. If there is an ineluctable desire to have such a discussion, perhaps someone who has such a desire can start a thread about digital selective calling and its general worth or value, and leave this thread alone.

David Pendleton posted 03-25-2011 08:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
quote:
Dave--You have become confused. The categories you have mentioned are categories of DISTRESS CALLS.

D'ya think?

Perhaps that's why I included the words "DESIGNATED DISTRESS" in my description of the types of calls my radio supports.

jimh posted 03-25-2011 12:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Making a DISTRESS CALL is not a good way to make a radio check of a DSC radio. As for taking the time to set a special category for a DISTRESS CALL, my personal opinion is that in a typical small boat distress situation I'd rather initiate a general DISTRESS CALL without taking time to specify the precise nature of the distress. Whether or not one ought to include specific information on DISTRESS CALLS made by digital selective calling would be a good topic for another discussion.

A good way to make a radio check of a DSC radio is to use a TEST CALL, if your DSC radio supports that feature and the radio you are testing with also supports that feature. It is my observation that only more recently made DSC radios will have this feature, and that is based on the lack of that feature in my CLASS-D DSC radio which was made about two years ago. (ASIDE: I think a new DSC radio is in my future.)

David Pendleton posted 03-25-2011 01:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
quote:
Making a DISTRESS CALL is not a good way to make a radio check of a DSC radio. As for taking the time to set a special category for a DISTRESS CALL, my personal opinion is that in a typical small boat distress situation I'd rather initiate a general DISTRESS CALL without taking time to specify the precise nature of the distress.

I agree.

David Pendleton posted 03-25-2011 04:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
Another thing occurred to me: from what I remember, you have a pretty nice radio; is it really that important to have the TEST CALL feature that you would replace it?
elaelap posted 03-25-2011 06:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for elaelap  Send Email to elaelap     
Guys, guys, guys...

No big deal about a radio check. It's as automatic as squeezing the bulb on your fuel line before starting your motor or turning on your sounder, VHF and GPS as you leave the harbor. You give a shout on a channel you know is in use locally to chat between small boats (9, 77&78 out here; NOT 16), and it goes something like this: "Radio check, radio check. Tony in Amulet. Pick me up on channel 77[or whatever]?" The comeback, half the time, is a simple "Loud and clear on 77[or whatever]." The other half, a pal will respond with a "How ya doin' and where'r ya fishing today, Tony?"

That's it in real life, and Bob's yer uncle...out here anyway. Yeah, in emergency situations I guess it would be great to have that perfect automatic interface going, and actually AIS* required on all vessels would be much more important than the VHF-GPS interface in day-to-day applications, especially in a boat without radar in the fog, but think about this, fellows: If you've already got GPS, an emergency call to the Coasties via your VHF without the DSC interface would be almost as easy, as long as you had time to give them your "numbers" (your lat/long location from your GPS).

Anyway, salmon season opens next week out here, and I'll surely miss all this interesting theoretical winter conversation...NOT ;-)

Tony

* Whoops, sorry about that acronym. Automatic Identification System.

bluewaterpirate posted 03-25-2011 07:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
Now back to the original topic ......

Here's a video of the SH 2100 DSC Test functionality. You can do this with any boat that has a DSC radio.

Sorry for the camera movement to lazy to use a tripod.

Tom

http://bluewaterpirate.phanfare.com/4996928_5673648

Note: Rescue 21 auto ACK's when polled.

David Pendleton posted 03-25-2011 07:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
Thanks, bluewaterpirate, that was a perfect demonstration of the technology.

What's the little glass sphere filled with blue liquid for?

DSC-sauce, perhaps?

bluewaterpirate posted 03-25-2011 08:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
Good luck charm my wife gave me 29 years ago.

Been thru some tuff times for sure!

Tom

jimh posted 03-25-2011 09:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Tom--That is a great demonstration video. Thank you.

Tony--I suggest you adopt the following test call procedure. The boat initiating the test call will be called MINNOW:

MINNOW (on Channel 16): Any vessel fishing off Bodega Bay; Any Vessel fishing off Bodega Bay: this is MINNOW. We have caught our limit of Salmon today and must return. Does anyone want our LAT-LONG coordinates? Please reply.

WT posted 03-25-2011 11:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
Tom, thanks for the great video demonstration.

I also have the ICOM504, don't you have yours set at "automatic acknowledgment"?

Warren

towboater posted 03-26-2011 12:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for towboater  Send Email to towboater     
Jim, Tuco, please stick with the topic or start another thread regarding West Coast Salmon fishing.

Oh boy, love those salmon fishing topics (lies).

Thanks again for your time Tom.

mkj

jimh posted 06-14-2011 11:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
quote:

Newer DSC radios should have an option of making a DSC call with the special category TEST CALL. You can initiate a DSC call to the USCG RESCUE 21 radio system using their special MMSI
MMSI = 003669999

If your TEST CALL is received by the USCG your radio should get an acknowledgement reply. To perform this test you have to be in range of a RESCUE 21 installation.


I tried this suggested procedure for making a test call to the USCG. It worked. About 30-seconds after my test call, I got an acknowledgement reply.

A few minutes later I called the USCG station that was local to me (St. Ignace). I asked them if they had been upgraded to RESCUE21 capabilities. The radio watchstander said they had not. I asked if they had replied to my DSC test call. The watchstander was not clear on that process, and he had not replied. However, I did get an acknowledgement, so perhaps there was some sort of DSC call relay process that automatically relayed my call to another station which then acknowledged the TEST CALL. In any case, it seemed to work as anticipated.

Chuck Tribolet posted 06-16-2011 09:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Way back in this thread David Pendleton said he didn't see the
utility of using DSC to hail your buds in a nonemergency
situation, and I didn't see an answer.

Trust me: it's handy, it's quicker, and it doesn't clog up
16 with hailing calls. The radio has an "address book" of
MMSIs so you don't have to enter those each time.


Chuck

jimh posted 06-19-2011 05:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
We can leave the discussion of the utility of digital selective calling for another thread, as this one is just discussing a method for making digital selective radio checks using the USCG as a source of reply.
bluewaterpirate posted 06-22-2011 01:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
Here's a better video of my SH GX2100 Matrix/AIS initiating a DSC test call.

http://bluewaterpirate.phanfare.com/4996928_5816917

Tom

For test purposes I don't have my ICOM 504 set for auto ACK. I wanted to view the data from SH.

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