Every seafarer should know the rules concerning the use of the maritime radio station.
In the Estonian legal system, connecting to a radio on maritime frequencies is allowed only after passing respective courses and receiving a Restricted Operator's Certificate, General Operator's Certificate or Short Range Certificate.
NB! WITH THE EXCEPTION OF AN EMERGENCY SITUATION. ANYONE IS ALLOWED TO CALL FOR HELP!
Any radio station used on the sea must have an authorisation of the use of radio equipment (ship station licence), which allows the use of maritime frequencies on conditions provided by law. The licences are issued by the Technical Surveillance Authority; application is found here. Every ship with a radio station registered by the Technical Surveillance Authority has its nine-digit code. Fixed maritime frequencies enable listening to weather and navigation warnings. Owners of a General Operator’s Certificate may contact other ships, coastal stations and ports. During emergency situations, maritime communication may be used also by radio users who have no appropriate certificate.
The maximum allowed capacity of Personal Mobile Radio is 5W. In ports, the capacity must be 1W – it can be selected from the menu.
Maritime communication is international. The main channel for transmitting emergencies, call signs and prior notices is channel 16 (156.800 MHz). It is open for all coastal stations and ships (continuous guard channel); depending on its content, the communication will be directed to another working channel. Channel 69 is the working channel of the national fleet, which can also be used for communication with the border guard and the centre of operative information and maritime surveillance.
In Estonia, as well as in neighbouring countries, skippers of small crafts can use channels 72 and 77, but also L1 (155.500 MHz) and L2 (155.525 MHz).
DSC is a digital selective calling device which is already built-in to newer radio stations. It transmits data through channel 70; this information reaches everyone in the frequency range. Pushing the emergency button (DSC or DISTRESS) will send an emergency message, which will be received automatically by all DSC radio stations in the frequency range.
The emergency signal in radio communication is MAYDAY, which is followed by an emergency message, given orally by radio telephone. The mayday call has absolute priority over any other communication session to use a frequency or a channel.
The operative information and maritime surveillance centre of the Border Guard Administration should be informed of accidents or emergency situations by radio on channel 16.
When using channel 16, minutes of silence should be reckoned with: at the top of every hour and half-hour there will be 3 minutes of silence online. During these times, information of lesser importance is not transmitted.
It is recommended that you affix the attached letter of notification near the installed radio communication device or the storage place of the walkie-talkie on the ship.
Emergency message should include:
- your name and the name of your water craft, possible means of communication
- your current and accident location
- description of the incident
- are there any injured people or threats to life
- what kind of help you need.