Marine radio

Marine radios provide a means of calling for assistance if a vessel is in distress, monitoring and/or updating rescue operations, and positioning a vessel by radio direction finding.

A marine radio is:

  • A radio operating on 27MHz marine radio channels
  • A radio operating on MF/HF marine radio frequencies
  • A radio operating on VHF marine radio channels

For more information visit the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) website's VHF marine radio page.

Operators may be able to check weather conditions through one of the many marine coast stations and limited coast stations.

Use of standard procedures avoids confusion and shortens transmitting time.

Unnecessary chatter can mask a weak call for help and one day that may be your call. Only the recommended phonetic alphabet should be used in bad conditions.

Radio operating procedure

Your two-way radio is your communication lifeline so it is important to remember that you:

  • Do not transmit unnecessarily
  • Listen before transmitting and avoid interfering with other stations
  • Use one of the following calling distress channels:
    • 27MHz channel 88
    • VHF channel 16
    • HF frequencies 4125, 6215 and 8291KHz
  • Maintain best contact channel or frequency and be guided by the coast or limited coast station when sending distress messages
  • Arrange to switch to a working channel once you have made contact with the person you called for non-distress messages
  • Always use your call sign or the name of the vessel for identification – use of given names or surnames is not permitted
  • Keep messages brief and clear
  • Be familiar with the type and syntax of emergency, urgency and safety messages
  • State your position, the nature of the distress, the time afloat, the type of vessel and the number of people involved if making a distress call
  • Stop transmitting when requested to do so by a coast station.

Certificate of Proficiency

A Marine Radio Operators Certificate of Proficiency is required to transmit using MF/HF or VHF radio. No certificate is required to operate 27MHz equipment. 

Further information and a copy of the Marine Radio Operators Handbook can be obtained from the Australian Maritime College on (03) 6335 4869 or visit their website at

In October 2015, ACMA approved the Australian Waters Qualification for VHF marine radio operators operating within Australian territorial waters (12NM).

Selection of marine radios

Distress channel frequencies

Radio type Channel/frequencies
VHF16 (67 alternative)
27MHz88 (86 alternative)
HF (frequency)

4125, 6215 and 8291 kHz

Graphical illustration of marine radio channels