Check if your boat meets VHF Marine Radio safety requirements

LAST year there seemed to be great confusion around the Short Range Certificate courses for marine VHF radios.

On September 27, SAMSA released Marine Notice 32 of 2016 which serves to clarify the current radio carriage as well as radio operator certification requirements. This is applicable to all vessels governed by the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations 2007 – which is all South African small vessels (ie, not ships). Therefore, Category R, E, D, C, B and A vessels have to adhere to these regulations.

Marine Notice 32 of 2016 reminds that the requirements laid out in Marine Notice 6 of 2015 stipulated that all vessels which are required to carry radios under the safety requirements of the regulations (ie, Cat D, C, B & A vessels) are to be equipped with a VHF Marine Radio by their first annual safety survey after January 1 last year.

This does not prohibit vessels to carry 29Mhz radios as voluntary equipment, however, these radios are no longer considered as being appropriate to fulfil the safety requirements of the regulations as from January 1 last year due to the following:

 There is no monitoring of the 29Mhz bands by the relevant authority – which means that the appropriate authorities will not hear you should you require assistance

 The 29Mhz band is a land mobile radio band, therefore, they were never meant for maritime use

 There is no interoperability between these radios and other shipping radios

Marine Notice 32 of 2016 continues to explain that the radio operator must possess a valid operator’s certificate.

The Restricted Radiotelephony (RT) Operator’s Certificate remains valid for the purpose it was issued for, which is the operation of voice activated marine VHF radio only. Therefore, it is acceptable for use on vessels equipped with marine VHF radios that have not been DSC enabled.

The Short Range Certificate (SRC) is required by operators who are operating a marine VHF radio with DSC enabled. Those who do not hold an operator’s certificate, are required to attend a SRC course at a SAMSA accredited Training Facility as soon as possible –

Restricted RT certificates are no longer offered. Port Alfred has its own SAMSA accredited facility: Talking Radio (

Currently, the regulations do not stipulate that the marine VHF radio on-board has to be DSC enabled. However, it is important to note that the implementation of Sea Area A1 is imminent and aural watch-keeping on VHF Channel 16 will be ceased. The consequence being that there will be no coast station or vessel required to keep a listening watch on Channel 16, therefore, a MAYDAY call on this channel may go unheard. DSC alerts will be monitored and will be the only way of successfully sending a distress, urgency or safety message. SAMSA has reviewed these regulations internally with a view of introducing the DSC carriage to coincide with the implementation of Sea Area A1 and the eventual switch off of the aural watch-keeping on VHF Channel 16.

SAMSA will inform the boating public as well as other concerned parties of the phase in period for the implementation of these requirements.

SAMSA has encouraged those holding the Restricted RT certificate to convert to the SRC at their earliest convenience in order to be ready once the aural watch-keeping on VHF channel 16 is terminated. It is also important to note that insurance companies will not cover any claim if the boat and its owner does not meet these licensing requirements.

In summary:

 Only Marine VHF Radios will meet the requirements for the safety survey

 In order to legally use this radio, the operator has to be in possession of either a Restricted RT certificate (for radios NOT enabled with DSC) or a Short Range Certificate (for radios enabled with DSC)

 Aural watch-keeping on VHF Channel 16 will be terminated and only DSC alerts will be monitored

 Those who hold the Restricted RT certificated or no certificate at all are encouraged to obtain their SRC as soon as possible

 Your insurance company will not cover any claim for your boat if you are not in possession of a valid operating certificate

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