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Author Topic:   Using VHF Marine Band Handheld Radios Ashore
jimh posted 07-03-2014 11:57 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
The Federal Communications Commission of the USA has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) Docket 14-36 that contains suggested changes to Part 80 (Stations in the Maritime Services) of the commission's rules.

The NPRM contains a response to a petition for change submitted by the GMDSS Task Force of the USA that requested the FCC amend the rules to permit operation of VHF Marine Band hand held radios ashore near areas of maritime and boating activity.

The FCC response to the request to amend the rules to permit use of handheld radios ashore was to oppose the change. The commission said:

We tentatively conclude that it would not further the public interest to permit the use of portable marine VHF radio transmitters by persons on shore under the authority of their ship station authorization. While the GMDSS Task Force asserts that the difficulty of enforcing the existing prohibition breeds disrespect for the Commission’s rules, it does not explain how its proposed rule would more effectively be enforced to ensure that portable marine VHF radio transmitters are used on shore only to communicate with an associated vessel and only within three miles. Nor does the petition explain why shore parties’ communications needs cannot be met by CMRS or PRS options. We invite commenters to discuss whether the rule is as widely ignored as the GMDSS Task Force suggests, and, if so, what actions the Commission can take (e.g., increasing outreach, strengthening warnings) to address the problem.


Hoosier posted 07-04-2014 09:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
Duh? They didn't seem to make the "shore parties" point. I can see a good case where a person/persons would go ashore via dinghy and would need to communicate with the "mothership" via marine band radio, not CMRS or PRS. There is also the situation where a person ashore is guiding a pilot through unfamiliar waters via a handheld radio.
jimh posted 07-04-2014 12:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I just came across this notice yesterday, and I believe the period for public comments has closed. I don't see why radio communication directly related to ship movement should have to switch to a completely different radio service once the foot of a crewman steps on land. That would require the vessel and the crew to carry two sets of radios, and to coordinate the communication change from one service to another.
swist posted 07-04-2014 01:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for swist  Send Email to swist     
I always thought one of the criteria for judging whether a law should be enacted was its enforcability. It would be interesting to see how many citations have actually been issued for land use of handheld VHF radios.
Hoosier posted 07-06-2014 12:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
This begs the question of who has enforcement jurisdiction. Rescue 21 has the capability to locate a marine band RF transmission almost instantly, but is license enforcement in the USCG's charter? Can the FCC task them to do it as their sub-agent? To borrow a fishing term, this is a can of worms.
jimh posted 07-06-2014 03:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The FCC suggests that the best solution for using a handheld radio ashore to communicate with a close-by boat is the Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) or the Personnel Radio Service (PRS).

I suppose they are proposing the Commercial Mobile Radio Service for commercial ships, and the Personnel Radio Service for non-commercial or recreational boats.

I believe that the FCC uses Personal Radio Service as a blanket term for the following radio services:

--Citizens Band (CB)

--Family Radio Service (FRS)

--General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)

--Low-power Radio Service (LPRS)

--Multi-use Radio Service (MURS)

The service that seems most appropriate is the Family Radio Service (FRS). The FRS has the following features:

--FRS allows two-way voice communications over very short distances, generally less than one-half mile. It is generally used by families or small groups to communicate while on group outings when group members are fairly close together, but can also be used in business-related settings.

--An FRS unit looks and works much like a walkie-talkie.

--If you have a dual-use, FRS-General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) unit, you may legally use only the FRS channels unless you have a GMRS license. The label on the unit or the operations manual should indicate the service the unit is certified for. FRS-only units transmit at lower power levels and have antennas that are integrated with the unit; GMRS units transmit at higher power levels and may have detachable antennas.

--You can operate your FRS unit anywhere in the U.S. and its possessions. Before using FRS in other countries such as Canada and Mexico, check to see if that country allows operation of FRS units. There is no minimum age requirement for operating a FRS unit.

Are there hand-held radios that combine a VHF Marine Band radio with a Family Radio Service radio? This is clearly the best solution for using ashore. I have an older radio that can do this, but I am not sure if there are any present-day radios that can. Also, it would be very nice if there were a VHF Marine Band fixed mount radio that could operate as an FRS radio, too. I don't know of any that can. In fact, it seems that there are really no FRS base station type radios, other then a few radios intended for campers.

dfmcintyre posted 07-07-2014 01:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Personally, I think that the time for the FCC to get it's knickers in a knot has come and gone on this issue. And the time to do anything about it (enforcement wise) went out the window when portables first arrived, without a card in the box for licensing.

There's reality and FCC version of reality, and the bottle of "wake up" pills are on the counter. I'd suggest they take a handful...

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