Ask Sail: Transferring a MMSI

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Q: I just purchased a used 54ft Jeanneau that was recently outfitted by the previous owner with the latest in marine electronics. All radio gear has the previous owner’s MMSI number entered into its memory. I am told it is a major job to pull the equipment and have a new MMSI number programmed. This means two VHFs, the marine SSB and an AIS transponder all need to be reprogrammed. Unbelievable! An expensive update, right?

Don Hamilton, Galveston, TX

GORDON WEST REPLIES

The purpose of the restrictions you refer to was to keep the casual operator from using the identity of another boater when transmitting a distress call or sending out position information over the AIS. However, thanks to the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services (RTCM), and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) task force, there is now a way to salvage and reuse the prior owner’s MMSI firmly planted in the gear aboard. First, the previous owner or an FCC licensing guru must be able to get permission to cancel the previous owner’s FCC Ship Station license with that MMSI. Once that is done, the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS) online license application has a box where you can fill in the previous owner’s MMSI number currently programmed into the radio gear aboard your new vessel. When your license is granted, you will then have a ship station license in your name with the MMSI number already programmed in your equipment.

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