This information paper provides details of the licensing arrangements applicable to the maritime ship licence type..
The operation of maritime radiocommunications equipment using the standard suite of frequencies in the 27 MHz and VHF (Very High Frequency) marine bands is authorised under the Radiocommunications (Maritime Ship Stations 27 MHz and VHF) Class Licence 2015. Class licences are open, standing authorities that allow anyone to operate particular radiocommunications equipment provided that the operation and the device are in keeping with the condition of the licence. Class licences do not have to be applied for and no licence fees are payable. If any condition of licence is breached (for example, operating on a frequency not mentioned in the Class Licence), the operator is no longer authorised to operate under the Class Licence. In this instance, the operator would be liable for prosecution.
Individual apparatus licences from the ACMA are required for vessels carrying MF/HF marine radio equipment (Maritime ship licence - ship station class B), trading vessels under Commonwealth survey (Maritime ship licence - ship station class C) and all coast stations.
The following information papers about marine radiocommunications licensing are published on the ACMA website:
Further information about distress beacons (including EPIRBs) and CB radios is available.
(EPIRBS, also known as distress beacons should be registered with AMSA. This registration is critical in early identification when undertaking a search and rescue operation.)
On 1 January 2004, as a result of changes agreed internationally, the use of frequencies 12290 and 16420 kHz for calling purposes is no longer authorised. From that date, those frequencies are reserved for distress, urgency and safety. The alternative frequencies 12359 and 16537 kHz can be used for calling, on a simplex basis, provided that the peak power envelope does not exceed 1 kW.
AIS (also known as ' Automatic Identification System' ) is a ship identification and surveillance system that generates digital messages sent from ship stations on AIS frequencies (161.975 MHz and 162.025 MHz) to provide identification and heading information to other ship or coast stations. On the frequencies 161.975 MHz and 162.025 MHz, maritime ship stations may only operate for AIS purposes.
What is a maritime ship licence?
A maritime ship licence is issued to authorise a station that:
- is operated on board a ship for communicating with maritime coast stations, or on-board communication stations associated with the maritime ship station, whether or not those stations are operated on board ships;
- may include equipment that is in a survival craft of the ship;
- may include a mobile earth station on board the ship;
- operates on maritime frequencies; and
- operates on maritime mobile-satellite frequencies or radiodetermination frequencies.
The maritime ship licence type is defined in the Radiocommunications (Interpretation) Determination 2015.
Under the maritime ship licence type, four licensing options are available:
- Ship station class B assigned;
- Ship station class B non assigned;
- Ship station class C assigned; and
- Ship station class C non assigned.
Ship station class B assigned
A ship station class B assigned:
- is operated under a maritime ship licence;
- may be used for the transmission and reception of messages on behalf of the public; and
- is operated on maritime frequencies specified in the transmitter licence that relates to the station.
A maritime ship licence authorising a ship station class B assigned is issued where a vessel is fitted with non-standard maritime frequencies. A separate record of each frequency assigned to a particular station is maintained and each frequency record attracts a separate fee.
Ship station class B non assigned
A ship station class B non assigned station:
- is operated under a maritime ship licence;
- may be used for the transmission and reception of messages on behalf of the public; and
- is operated on maritime frequencies on a non assigned basis, or on frequencies specified for the operation of ship station class B non assigned stations in a determination made under paragraph 107(1)(f) of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Radcomm Act).
A maritime ship licence authorising a ship station class B non assigned is issued where a vessel is fitted with standard frequencies in the HF marine band.
Where both standard frequencies and non standard frequencies are installed on the one vessel, two licences will be issued - a maritime ship licence authorising a ship station class B non assigned and a maritime ship licence authorising a ship station class B assigned.
NOTE: Transmitters for which maritime ship licences authorising ship stations class B (assigned and non assigned) have been issued, must be operated by qualified persons (see Maritime ship stations - certificates of proficiency).
Ship station class C assigned
A ship station class C assigned station is:
- equipped in accordance with the Navigation Act 2012; and
- operated on maritime frequencies specified in the transmitter licence that relates to the station.
A maritime ship licence authorising a ship station class C assigned is issued where a vessel is fitted with non standard maritime frequencies. A separate record of each frequency assigned to a particular station is maintained and each frequency record attracts a separate fee.
Ship station class C non assigned
A ship station class C non assigned station is:
- equipped in accordance with the Navigation Act 2012; and
- operated on maritime frequencies on a non assigned basis, or on frequencies specified in a determination made under paragraph 107(1)(f) of the Radcomm Act.
A maritime ship licence authorising a ship station class C non assigned is issued where a vessel is fitted with standard marine frequencies.
NOTE: Transmitters for which maritime ship licences authorising ship stations class C (assigned and non assigned) have been issued, must be operated by qualified persons (see Maritime ship stations - certificates of proficiency).
The operation of radiocommunications equipment authorised by a maritime ship licence is subject to:
- conditions specified in the Radcomm Act, including an obligation to comply with the Radcomm Act;
- a condition that any radiocommunications device operated under the licence comply with all standards applicable to it;
- conditions specified in any determinations made by the ACMA under paragraph 107(1)(f) of the Radcomm Act;
- conditions specified in the licence; and
- any further conditions imposed by the ACMA under section 111 of the Radcomm Act.
Generally, conditions are applied to licences to enable users to communicate effectively with a minimum of interference. All conditions relating to a licence must be complied with.
Licence conditions determinations
The ACMA may determine, by written instrument, conditions relating to apparatus licences. These conditions are known as Licence Conditions Determinations (LCDs).
The Radiocommunications Licence Condition (Apparatus Licence) Determination 2015 contains conditions of licence that are common to all apparatus licences.
The Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Maritime Ship Licence) Determination 2015 (the Maritime Ship LCD) contains conditions of licence that apply to all Maritime Ship licences. These conditions include the type of communication permitted, with whom the operator is permitted to communicate, callsign usage, frequencies, power and relevant equipment specifications.
An advisory note is automatically attached to licences where an LCD is in force. The note references the applicable LCD.
The licence conditions imposed through the relevant LCD may change from time to time. Licensees should ensure that they have informed themselves of the current conditions imposed by the ACMA.
Any other conditions of operation which apply to individual licences but are not included in the Maritime Ship LCD, will be printed on the licence under the heading 'Special Conditions'.
An accredited person may ask the ACMA to impose one or more special conditions on the licence according to the circumstances in which the frequency assignments for the licence are made.
Advisory notes, providing information that may be of interest to a licensee, will be printed on the licence under the heading 'Advisory Notes'.
An accredited person may ask the ACMA to impose one or more advisory notes on the licence according to the circumstances in which the frequency assignments for the licence are made.
The licensee of a maritime ship station must use either a form of identification that clearly identifies the station, or a callsign allocated by ACMA, at the start of each transmission or series of transmissions.
Callsigns are a unique series of letters/numbers allocated to a radiocommunications user to identify a station. Callsigns must be used for all on-air communications, including testing. Callsigns allocated to Maritime Ship stations conform with International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radio Regulations.
Callsigns for maritime ship licences authorising ship stations class B are allocated callsigns using the template detailed in Table 1.
Callsigns for maritime ship licences authorising ship stations class C are allocated four letter callsigns (see Table 2).
Table 1 - Ship Stations Class B Callsign Template
Ship Stations Class B callsign template (example of typical callsign VHQ2739)
first two alpha characters are VJ, VK, VL, VM, VN, VZ or AX, with the third character being any alpha
numeric character 2-9
numeric character 0-9
Table 2 - Ship Stations Class C Callsign Template
Ship Stations Class C callsign template (example of typical callsign VJCK)
first two alpha characters are VJ, VK, VL, VM, VN or VZ. The third and fourth are any alpha
NOTE: Where a ship station employs Digital Selective Calling, the licensee must also use a maritime mobile service identity, available on application from AusSAR.
NOTE: Any ship that transmits public correspondence through foreign coast stations, for which it will incur a charge, must have an Accounting Authority Identification Code (AAIC). Information about AAIC numbers may be obtained on request from Licence Issue and Allocations, ACMA, Canberra.
Apparatus licences may be issued for periods varying from one day to up to five years. However, the most common period is one year.
Privacy of communications cannot be guaranteed in any way simply by the choice of frequency. Where the privacy or secrecy of communications is desired, measures may be taken to install voice privacy devices, providing that it does not jeopardise the performance of approved equipment.
Licensees must not use a voice privacy device when transmitting a callsign or other form of station identification.
Maritime mobile-satellite and radiodetermination frequency bands
The maritime ship licence authorises operation by ships on frequencies allocated in the maritime mobile, maritime mobile-satellite and radiodetermination bands. A separate earth licence is no longer required to authorise communications with maritime mobile satellites. The authorisation to operate on radiodetermination frequencies covers the operation of ship borne radars. Stations on ships that operate on frequencies outside of these bands will require authorisation under another licence type appropriate to the band and service provided.
Carriage of licences and operator qualifications
Under ITU Radio Regulations, administrations may inspect a ship's radiocommunications licence and the radio operator's qualifications. Licences and operator qualifications should be carried on the vessel.
VHF and MF/HF marine radio equipment and Inmarsat (B or C) Satellite communications equipment carried on board a vessel must be under the control of a qualified operator at all times. All coast stations must also be under the control of a qualified operator.
The Long Range Operator Certificate of Proficiency (LROCP), covers the operation of both VHF and MF/HF equipment. The Short Range Operator Certificate of Proficiency (SROCP) has a somewhat simpler syllabus, and only covers the operation of VHF equipment. The Marine Satellite Communications Endorsement (Satellite Endorsement) may be added to either the LROCP or the SROCP if use of Inmarsat equipment is required.
Inmarsat-C equipment that only supports the operation of a Vessel Monitoring System does not require operator qualifications.
Many TAFEs and marine organisations offer courses leading to examination for the LROCP and SROCP. Such courses are not compulsory and many candidates for examination successfully self study. However, the examination for the Satellite Endorsement should follow conclusion of an approved course of study, including practical instruction in the use of Inmarsat communications equipment. The Australian Maritime College (AMC) provides the marine examination and certificate service on behalf of the ACMA. The AMC can provide the details of organisations and individuals offering courses and or conducting exams.
Operators of a Ship station class C or a Major coast station are required to hold a GMDSS General Operators Certificate of Proficiency (GOCP) issued by AMSA. This is a higher level qualification involving detailed theoretical and practical knowledge of marine radio and satellite communications equipment. AMSA has accredited a number of educational institutions to conduct GOCP examinations at the conclusion of a relevant course of instruction. For further information, licensees should contact AMSA.
Information about operator qualifications is contained in the ACMA Information Papers Maritime Coast Stations - Certificates of Proficiency and Maritime Ship Stations - Certificates of Proficiency. Information about operator qualifications is also contained in a fact sheet entitled Marine Radio Qualifications.
Limited coast assigned system
In September 2002, the former ACA introduced a new licensing option under the maritime coast licence type known as the limited coast assigned system licence. This new licensing option enables operators to be issued with one licence to authorise the operation of both their coast station and associated ship stations.
For more information about the limited coast assigned system licence please see the Maritime Coast Licence Policy Information Paper or the Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Maritime Coast Licence) Determination 2015.
Applying for an apparatus licence
Applications for an apparatus licence may be made to Licence Issue and Allocations. Applicants should complete the ACMA form Application for apparatus licence(s). If frequency assignments are required with this licence, the frequency coordination work may be performed either by the ACMA or an accredited person.
Alternatively if you wish to use the services of an accredited person you should refer to the List of Accredited Persons for contact details. An accredited person will issue you with a frequency assignment certificate and this should be submitted with the licence application to Licence Issue and Allocations Accredited persons are not employed by the ACMA, nor is the ACMA responsible for the work of accredited persons.
More information about Accreditation can be found on the ACMA website.
Spectrum is a valuable resource. Fees are intended to ensure a fair return to the Commonwealth for the private use of this valuable public resource. Licence fees are set having regard to spectrum location, geographical location, amount of spectrum occupied and coverage area authorised by the licence.
Detailed information about fees is provided in the Apparatus Licence Fee Webpages.
Licence fee exemptions and concessions
Individuals and organisations may be eligible for an exemption or concession from the payment of licence fees. For further information see Licence Fee Exemptions and Concessions.
Transfers of apparatus licences
Apparatus licences may be transferred. Applicants wishing to transfer an apparatus licences should complete and submit to Licence Issue and Allocations the form Application for transfer of apparatus licence(s) (R060). Both the transferer and the transferee must sign the transfer form. Applicants are required to pay a transfer charge to cover the ACMA's administrative expenses.
There are a number of limitations on the transfer of apparatus licences. The Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users and Transfer of Apparatus Licences) Determination 2015 specifies these limitations.
A device authorised by the transferred licence is still required to operate under the same technical conditions (including transmission site) as specified on the original licence.
Third party operation
Licensees may authorise, by written instrument, other persons to operate radiocommunications devices under the apparatus licences. These are known as third party authorisations.
There are a number of limitations on third party authorisations. The Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users and Transfer of Apparatus Licences) Determination 2015 specifies these limitations.
A person authorised to use a radiocommunications device under a third party authorisation is subject to all of the conditions applicable to that device under the licence.
Marine radiocommunications watchkeeping
Maritime communication stations
A Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) network, provided in accordance with Australia's obligations under the IMO, consisting of a HF DSC service through the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) which maintains a contract with Kordia Soutions Pty Ltd. The two Kordia stations which are located at Charleville (QLD) and Wiluna (WA) are called Maritime Communication Stations. Maritime Communication Stations provide the following services to vessels:
- search and rescue (SAR) operations in conjunction with the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) in Canberra (RCC Australia);
- continuous automated watch of HF digital selective calling (DSC) frequencies for distress calls relating to safety of life at sea; and
- weather forecasts and warnings for coastal waters and high seas areas are issued by the Bureau of Meteorology. These are transmitted automatically. The frequencies used for the transmission of these broadcasts are not monitored for other transmissions.
Coast radio stations
The States and Northern Territory marine authorities have set up a series of 'Coast Radio' Stations that provide high frequency (HF) aural watchkeeping services. These services are provided through a network of nine HF stations located at Perth, Port Hedland, Darwin, Cairns, Gladstone, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart.
HF radio distress and safety services will be provided by the stations to all coastal areas throughout Australia with coverage extending up to 200 nautical miles seaward. Stations maintain 24 hour listening watches on 4125 kHz, 6215 kHz and 8291 kHz for distress and safety situations. It is important to restrict radio traffic on these frequencies to distress, safety and urgency calls.
The 'Coast Radio' Stations will also broadcast navigation warnings on 8176 kHz.
The States and Northern Territory marine authorities have also set up very high frequency (VHF) stations in certain areas of Australia. These stations provide VHF radio distress and safety services including 24 hour monitoring of VHF Channel 16 for distress, urgency and safety traffic and the regular broadcast of weather information on VHF Channel 67.
If you have any additional queries relating to: