Ask SAIL: VHF Portables on Land

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VHF PORTABLES ON LAND

Q: Our dockmaster tells me that portable marine VHF radios are now permitted for use on land. Does this mean I can use my hand-held on the ski slopes, or talk from the office with boats for weather reports?

Don Hull, New York, NY

GORDON WEST REPLIES

Yes, and no. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in its August 2016 Report and Order amended the rule 80.115 (a)(1)-(4) to allow portable VHF radios to be used on shore “adjacent to a waterway” to talk with your own ship about ship’s business. With this in mind, for pleasure craft, you would use non-commercial channels and keep transmissions to a minimum practical time. However, this rule change does NOT allow ski slope operation. Nor does it allow you to gab with any and all ship stations—just shore to your own ship station, like calling from the dock for the kids to pick you up, or calling your ship from a shore-side marine hardware store to see if there are any other parts you need to bring back aboard.

The FCC also makes it clear that this should not be interpreted as a free-for-all on using marine hand-helds ashore between each other. Again, the only permitted shore-to-ship calls will be to your “associated ship station,” and not anyone or everyone to just “yak, yak, yak.” DSC calling on channel 70 is also permitted to minimize Channel 16 traffic.

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April 2017

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