A mobile phone is no substitute for a marine VHF radio, and if a vessel isn’t fitted with one, always make sure you have a hand held VHF when you go to sea.
If you are operating a radio on the international maritime VHF band you must hold a certificate of competence in radiotelephony e.g. the Short Range Certificate (SRC). It is vital to understand the correct radio procedures as unnecessary transmissions could block out a Mayday distress call.
The Short Range Certificate is the minimum qualification required by law to control the operation of VHF and VHF Digital Selective Calling (DSC) equipment on board. This includes both fixed and hand held equipment using International channels.
The SRC course can be taken in the classroom or online though the Lymington Sea School website. The exam, which includes a short written test, is conducted at Lymington Sea School training centre in Haven Quay.
There is no prerequisite training or qualifications for this course but knowing the phonetic alphabet will definitely give you a head start. The RYA VHF Handbook will be issued to you as part of the course and some pre course reading is required.
Course topics include:
The basics of radio operation
The correct frequencies (channels) to be used
Distress, emergency and medical assistance procedures
Making ship to shore telephone calls
Digital Selective Calling (DSC) using simulators
Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB)
Search and Rescue (SART)
All new VHF sets are either fitted, or can be interfaced, with DSC allowing calls to specific vessels. If you hold the ‘old’ VHF licence (pre-1999) you need to upgrade your qualification if you purchase new equipment. This can be done by attending this one-day course or, if no tuition is required, you can enter for direct examination.
DSC (Digital Selective Calling) is part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) which was first drafted in 1979. The importance radio communication was a lesson tragically learnt from the sinking of the Titanic in 1914. The first Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention passed later that year required vessels to maintain a continuous radio watch. In 1988, IMO amended the SOLAS Convention, requiring ships subject to it fit GMDSS equipment. Recreational vessels do not need to comply with GMDSS radio carriage requirements, but will increasingly use the DSC VHF radios as older non-DSC devices as phased out.
An examination fee of £60.00 is payable to the RYA. This payment is made online via before commencement of the course.