1. The ITU World Radio Communication Conferences in 2012, 2015 and 2019 made extensive changes to appendix 18 of the Radio Regulation (RR). While these changes do not affect the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), they do affect the use of other frequencies used for VHF meteorological, navigational and urgent marine information broadcasts, port operations and Vessel Traffic Service (VTS).
2. According to the Performance standards for shipborne VHF radio installations capable of communication and digital selective calling (resolution A.803 (19), as amended), VHF radio communication equipment should comply with the Radio Regulations.
3. In view of above, the International Maritime Organization issued circular MSC.1/Circ.1460 (Rev.3) providing that:
“To ensure GMDSS communication capability and the availability of appropriate GMDSS radio communication equipment, and without prejudice to the arrangements contained in appendix 18 of the RR, VHF radio communication equipment should be updated so that following the first radio survey after 1 January 2024, at the earliest, it meets the arrangements which will be in force by then”.
4. In this regard, Liberian Administration vide Marine Advisory 11/2023 has provided following guidance/ requirements on the continued validity of VHF Radiocommunications equipment installed and used on ships:
i. Frequencies and channeling arrangements for the VHF bands:
a. The above changes in Radio Regulation (RR) do not affect the designated VHF channels used for navigation safety, distress communications, and ship to ship VHF communications. The channels designated for use of the aforementioned communications are Channels 6, 13, 15,16, 17, and 70. These channels remain unchanged.
b. The changes to the VHF frequencies do not affect the AIS VHF channels (AIS1 and AIS2).
c. Some coast stations may change their operating channel designations or frequencies as a result of changes to the RR, but the timing of any change is a local matter.
d. A small number of 4-digit channel numbers are now explicitly stated in the RR. Radio operators should be aware of these new channels and the corresponding older 2-digit channel designations. Existing 2-digit, international, simplex channels are unchanged.
e. Where a frequency is supported by equipment in accordance with the RR, but the channel indication is no longer correct, a cross reference table should be displayed at the operating station(s).
ii. While existing VHF radios will continue to work for safety, distress, and ship to ship communications, however, many PSC authorities and Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) may change over to the new VHF frequency on 01 January 2024 for communicating with ships and other vessels within their regions. To ensure proper communications with PSC authorities and/or communications with VTS, vessel owners/operators should have on board at least two VHF radios capable of communicating on the new frequencies.
iii. Prior to any passage, the Radio Operator / Master should review radio channel / frequency requirements for the vessel’s area of operation, ensuring the radiocommunication equipment has the required capability. Radio operators should refer to ITU List IV – List of Coast Stations and Special Service Stations or optionally the Admiralty List of Radio Stations (ALRS) to ensure that the on-board equipment is capable of operating on the frequencies necessary for the vessel’s area of operation, e.g. to communicate with ports and coast stations.
5. Ship Owners, managers and masters of Liberian flagged ships are advised to be guided by above.
This Technical Circular and the material contained in it is provided only for the purpose of supplying current information to the reader and not as an advice to be relied upon by any person. While we have taken utmost care to be as factual as possible, readers/ users are advised to verify the exact text and content of the Regulation from the original source/ issuing Authority.