Canadian Safe Boating Course

Transport Canada has made changes to the online exam process and study guide. The old Boater Exam boating license course and test was discontinued on April 15th, 2011. Take the NEW Canadian Online Boating Course! The course material below remains as a resource for all who boat on Canadian waters—particularly experienced boaters who already have their Pleasure Craft Operator Card.


Chapter 5: The Maritime Communications System

The Public Network

Today, there are many modern means of communication: radio, telephone, cellular telephone, radiotelephone, etc. On a vessel, radios operate through a maritime radio station or VHF Marine.

Radio airwaves are governed by Industry Canada. All radio operators must obtain a license from this Department.

Radiotelephone operators must have a Restricted Operator's Certificate. To obtain such a certificate, candidates apply to Industry Canada to take the Restricted Operator's Certificate examination. To pass the examination, candidates must satisfy the examiner that they:

  • are capable of operating modern VHF radiotelephone equipment;
  • possess a general knowledge of radiotelephone operating procedures, international regulations applicable to radiotelephone communications between stations, as well as those specific regulations relating to safety of life;
  • possess practical knowledge of the operation of Global Maritime Distress and Safety System equipment for vessels engaged on voyages within the range of VHF coast stations.

Private vessel operators have everything to gain by taking the radiotelephone training and obtaining their radiotelephone certificate.

Public Network Regulations

Use of a radiotelephone system is governed by a series of standards and simple instructions that radio operators must obey. The phonetic alphabet of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is used whenever letters or groups of letters are pronounced separately, or when communication is difficult.


Letter Word Pronounced as
A Alfa AL FAH
B Bravo BRAH VOH
C Charlie CHAR LEE or SHAR LEE
D Delta DELL TAH
E Echo ECK OH
F Foxtrot FOKS TROT
G Golf GOLF
H Hotel HOH TELL
I India IN DEE AH
J Juliet JEW LEE ETT
K Kilo KEY LOH
L Lima LEE MAH
M Mike MIKE
N November NO VEM BER
O Oscar OSS CAH
P Papa PAH PAH
Q Quebec KEH BECK
R Romeo ROW ME OH
S Sierra SEE AIR RAH
T Tango TANG GO
U Uniform YOU NEE FORM or OO NEE FORM
V Victor VIK TAH
W Whiskey WISS KEY
X X-ray ECKS RAY
Y Yankee YANG KEY
Z Zulu ZOO LOO

For example: If the vessel Seawolf VY1234 were asked to spell its name and call sign when communication is difficult, it would do so as follows: SIERRA, ECHO ALPHA, WHISKEY, OSCAR, LIMA, FOXTROT; VICTOR, YANKEE, one, two, three, four.

A series of procedural words and expressions must also be used in radiotelephone communications. The following are a few examples:

Word or Phrase Meaning
ACKNOWLEDGE Let me know that you have received and understood this message
AFFIRMATIVE Yes, or permission granted.
BREAK To indicate the separation between portions of the messages. (To be used where there is no clear distinction between the text and other portions of the message).
CHANNEL Change to channel...before proceeding.
CONFIRM My version is ______. Is that correct?
CORRECTION An error has been made in this transmission (message indicated). The correct version is ________.
GO AHEAD Proceed with your message.
HOW DO YOU READ? How well do you receive me?
I SAY AGAIN Self-explanatory (use instead of “I repeat”).
MAYDAY The spoken word for the distress signal.
MAYDAY RELAY Is the spoken word for the distress relay signal.
NEGATIVE No, or that is not correct, or I do not agree.
OVER My transmission is ended and I expect a response from you.
OUT Conversation is ended and no response is expected.
PAN PAN The spoken word for the urgency signal.
PRUDONCE During long distress situations, communications can resume on a restricted basis. Communication is to be restricted to ship’s business or messages of a higher priority.
READBACK Repeat all of this message back to me exactly as received after I have given OVER. (Do not use the word “repeat”.)
ROGER I have received all of your last transmission.
ROGER NUMBER I have received your message number ...
STANDBY I must pause for a few seconds or minutes, please wait.
SAY AGAIN Self-explanatory. (Do not use the word “repeat”.)
SÉCURITÉ Is the spoken word for the safety signal.
SEELONCE Indicates that silence has been imposed on the frequency due to a distress situation.
SEELONCE DISTRESS Is the international expression to advise that a distress situation is in progress. This command comes from a vessel or coast station other than the station in distress.
SEELONCE FEENEE Is the international expression for a distress cancellation.
SEELONCE MAYDAY Is the international expression to advise that a distress situation is in progress. The command comes from the ship in distress.
THAT IS CORRECT Self-explanatory.
VERIFY Check coding, check text with originator and send correct version.
WORDS TWICE
  1. As a request: Communication is difficult, please send each word twice.
  2. As information: Since communication is difficult, I will send each word twice

Expressions such as “Breaker, breaker,” “OK,” “Repeat” should be avoided.  The appendix contains more information on the security procedures for transmitting distress calls.

Available Services

Many services are available for boaters equipped with a radiotelephone system.  Channel 16 (or 156,800 MHZ) is reserved for distress and safety calls; the Canadian Coast Guard operates a 24- hour service on this channel.  Other channels are reserved for weather information and safety warnings.  Moreover, prompt medical consultations are available free of charge through the Coast Guard.  Within seconds, communication can be established with a doctor who can advise boaters on what first-aid action to take.  Lastly, boaters can obtain information on maritime traffic in their region also by contacting the Canadian Coast Guard.

Private Network

Licenses are also issued to private networks operated by various organizations who require a communication system, including: police and fire departments, ambulance services, etc.  These networks are regulated by the Department of Communications Canada.  For more information on private and government communication networks, contact Industry Canada.

Positive Attitudes

In all communications, respect is an essential component of genuine dialogue. Using a radiotelephone system for boating purposes also demands courtesy and compliance with standards.

Other behaviour should also be used:

Respect


  • Comply with the standards governing this type of communication;
  • Use the proper frequencies;
  • Use the standard expressions;
  • Comply with priorities.
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