Ship radio and ship portable radio

Published: 11 November 2022

Ship radio is used for the safe navigation of vessels and for making distress calls in emergency situations. It enables communication with coast stations, port/harbour authorities and other vessels.

Ship radio uses medium frequency (MF), very high frequency (VHF), high frequency (HF), and ultra high frequency (UHF) radio equipment. It can also use satellite communications equipment, radar equipment, emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRB), and search and rescue transponders (SART).

Licensing ensures that radio equipment used on board ships does not cause undue interference to other communications equipment and is operated by competent persons.

Failure to hold a valid licence is a criminal offence and Ofcom's enforcement team can impose on-the-spot fines. The maximum penalty on conviction is a £5,000 fine and/or a six month prison sentence. Those convicted may also be ordered to forfeit any radio apparatus used illegally.

A Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number is now issued to all new Ship Radio and Ship Portable Radio Licences. If you do not already hold a licence you can apply on our online portal.

If you hold an existing Ship Radio or Ship Portable Radio licence you will need to amend your licence and add the relevant piece(s) of equipment. Upon completion of the amendment a MMSI number will be generated and displayed on your licence document.

You can’t transfer a licence to your name.

Licences are non-transferable as a call sign and MMSI number stays with a vessel for life .

You will therefore need to apply for a new licence in your name, retaining the call sign and MMSI number of the vessel.

Apply for a new licence.

Licences will remain valid for the lifetime of the vessel. If you sell your vessel you must surrender your licence.

Please visit the Online Licensing Service to check your licence and personal details are correct.

Go to the Online Licensing Service to manage your licence and update your address.

You must surrender your licence. This can be done by logging into the Online Licensing Service where you can manage your licences.

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