Fine Tuner

Ben Hathaway of Coos Bay, Oregon, asks:

“My boat’s VHF and SSB both have the same Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number. I’ve recently purchased a new marine VHF handheld with DSC capability. Should this new handheld have the same, or a different MMSI number?”

Gordon West replies:

This is a great question, and it’s one that is currently under review by the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services (, as well as the Global Marine Distress Safety System (GMDSS) task force. Basically, these new handheld VHF DSC radios, Class H, can have a special MMSI number that identifies it as coming from a portable handheld device.

So my answer is, yes, non-commercial users should have a separate MMSI for a handheld marine VHF radio with DSC capability. You can get an MMSI number from BoatUS, SeaTow, or the US Power Squadron, but make it clear on the MMSI application that this is a portable radio. Doing so makes it clear to a rescue authority that hears a distress call from the handheld, that it may not be coming from the station on your big boat.

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