Update to maritime VHF channel arrangements | ACMA

Update to maritime VHF channel arrangements

Consultation closes: 01 February 2019

IFC: 44/2018

Consultation closed

Following public consultation, the ACMA has made the Radiocommunications – Maritime Omnibus Variation 2019 (the instrument) which brings in a raft of changes to the VHF maritime mobile band. View the instrument and supporting explanatory statement.

The instrument varies the following legislative instruments:


The ACMA received 10 submissions to this consultation. These can be accessed from the right-hand side index box under 'Other submissions received'.

Need more information or assistance?
Read our FAQs




Consultation paper—Update to maritime VHF channel arrangements

404 kB

Draft Radiocommunications – Maritime Omnibus Variation 2018 (No.1)

143 kB

Executive summary

The ACMA, with the assistance of key maritime stakeholders, has undertaken a review of the current regulatory arrangements governing the operation of VHF maritime radio in Australia.

The review was triggered by updates to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radio Regulations at the most recent ITU World Radiocommunication Conferences in 2012 and 2015 (WRC-12 and WRC-15), and representations by maritime stakeholders that Australia’s regulatory arrangements could be usefully updated to reflect emerging safety-of-life technologies and systems.

The review is reflected in the current Five-year spectrum outlook 2018–22, in which the ACMA indicated it would consider changes to the regulation of maritime VHF radio channels in 2018–19.

The review aimed to:

  • identify and include in Australia’s regulatory arrangements any mandatory ITU provisions, and ascertain how those might be best supported in light of the ACMA’s functions and responsibilities
  • identify improvements to the integrity of the VHF maritime mobile band as it applies to all maritime stakeholders
  • where appropriate, update safety of life provisions to maintain pace with international developments
  • consider the requirements of maritime stakeholders for use of the VHF maritime mobile band
  • identify regulatory improvements that would not unduly increase regulatory burden or excessively increase costs on maritime stakeholders
  • promote the overall efficiency of the regulatory framework that supports the operation of maritime radio by stakeholders, and
  • consider the current regulatory environment, including the relevant legislative instruments of which the ACMA has oversight, which allow for the channelisation, use and technical requirements of the VHF maritime mobile band in Australia.

Before the review, in 2016, we were presented with a proposed plan by key maritime stakeholders outlining changes to the current VHF maritime mobile regulatory framework, including those changes brought about by WRC-12 and WRC-15. The plan was assessed, including the impacts it would have on all Australian maritime stakeholders, and in early 2017, we commenced the review by engaging and consulting with relevant maritime safety organisations. The responses received generally agreed that we should update the regulatory framework to maintain pace with international developments on safety-of-life arrangements and, where possible, provide access to additional spectrum for the Australian maritime community. However, responses also indicated that further work was required to ensure that the regulatory arrangements benefitted both current and future users of maritime mobile channels.

As a result, we have considered how best to implement changes to the current regulatory framework in the short- to medium-term to improve safety-of-life arrangements, while also providing benefits to the Australian maritime community. The proposed outcome is an approach that will satisfy our regulatory requirements, as well as provide an opportunity for maritime stakeholders to guide us on how the arrangements can be further improved. The proposals outlined in this paper will have no effect on spectrum licences and are consistent with the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan 2017.

This paper provides two proposals for public consideration:

  • Proposal 1—outlines a set of changes to the Australian regulatory framework and provides draft instruments identifying these key changes.
  • Proposal 2—raises a series of questions for maritime stakeholders, answers to which will inform the ACMA’s consideration of any additional changes to the regulatory framework.

Issue for comment

Proposal 1

Comments are sought regarding changes in various legislative instruments as articulated in the Draft Radiocommunications – Maritime Omnibus Variation 2018 (No.1). This is available from the above Downloads table.

Proposal 2

To assist with identifying any additional changes that can be made to our regulatory framework, interested stakeholders are invited to comment on:

  • Should the ACMA consider converting two-digit duplex channels to four-digit simplex channels and if so how many should be converted?
  • If the ACMA were to consider conversion of these channels what are the key issues we should be aware of?
  • What is the urgency of any such change?

We are interested to receive views and advice from interested stakeholders about how to specify the use to which channels can be put in our regulatory framework, namely:

  • Should the framework specify broad uses for each channel in the same way as Appendix 18 of the ITU Radio Regulations or should we more narrowly specify the use of each channel?
  • What are the benefits / costs of each approach?
  • Is there an appetite for non-regulatory management of the local use of channels, or management by each State and Territory beneath the broad specification of use in Appendix 18?

Are there any other improvements that can be made to our regulatory framework?