Chapter 5: The Maritime Communications System
The Public Network
In boating, many vessels are equipped with marine radiotelephones that operate through a maritime radio station or Very High Frequency (VHF) range. These radiotelephones are commonly called VHF Marine Radios or simply VHF Radios.
Radio airwaves in Canada are governed by Industry Canada and marine radiotelephones must be operated by a person holding a Radio Operator’s Certificate (ROC-M).
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.
For more information about the ROC-M, please visit "Transport Canada's FAQs".
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.
||CHAR LEE or SHAR LEE
||IN DEE AH
||JEW LEE ETT
||NO VEM BER
||ROW ME OH
||SEE AIR RAH
||YOU NEE FORM or OO NEE FORM
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
||Let me know that you have received and understood this message
||Yes, or permission granted.
||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).
||Change to channel...before proceeding.
||My version is ______. Is that correct?
||An error has been made in this transmission (message indicated). The correct version is ________.
||Proceed with your message.
|HOW DO YOU READ?
||How well do you receive me?
|I SAY AGAIN
||Self-explanatory (use instead of I repeat).
||The spoken word for the distress signal.
||Is the spoken word for the distress relay signal.
||No, or that is not correct, or I do not agree.
||My transmission is ended and I expect a response from you.
||Conversation is ended and no response is expected.
||The spoken word for the urgency signal.
||During long distress situations, communications can resume on a restricted basis. Communication is to be restricted to ships business or messages of a higher priority.
||Repeat all of this message back to me exactly as received after I have given OVER. (Do not use the word repeat.)
||I have received all of your last transmission.
||I have received your message number ...
||I must pause for a few seconds or minutes, please wait.
||Self-explanatory. (Do not use the word repeat.)
||Is the spoken word for the safety signal.
||Indicates that silence has been imposed on the frequency due to a distress situation.
||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.
||Is the international expression for a distress cancellation.
||Is the international expression to advise that a distress situation is in progress. The command comes from the ship in distress.
|THAT IS CORRECT
||Check coding, check text with originator and send correct version.
- As a request: Communication is difficult, please send each word twice.
- 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.
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.
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.
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:
- Comply with the standards governing this type of communication;
- Use the proper frequencies;
- Use the standard expressions;
- Comply with priorities.
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