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Old 11-12-2019, 09:39 AM   #1
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FCC license/MMSI for Bahamas

My boat has radios with the MMSI already programmed. The previous owner recently relinquished control of MMSI number so that I could assume control and update the owner information. The MMSI was issued by BoatUS and their website indicates that if I plan to take the boat to other countries, I need to get an FCC license and that license would include a new MMSI. I can't have two MMSIs for the same boat, so the one issued by BoatUS will become obsolete by the new one, when/if I get it.



I do plan to eventually cruise in the Bahamas. Is the FCC license requirement actually enforced there? The reason I ask is that I know the boat has already been to the Bahamas and was clearly not in compliance then (unless the laws have changed since). Also, does Canada enforce the FCC license? I have boated there in my last boat with no FCC license, but I did not have a DSC radio, so no MMSI.
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Old 11-12-2019, 10:18 AM   #2
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While I think we were in compliance when there, I am guessing that unless you are one of the below, you have no reason to worry:

1 Drug runner
2.Terrorist
3. Spy
4. Gun runner
5. Smuggler
6. Human trafficker
7. Other?

Stay safe.
Often easier to seek forgiveness than approval.
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Old 11-12-2019, 11:48 AM   #3
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I believe when you apply to the FCC they ask if there is a current MMSI and they will then issue the required license with the current MMSI. Check their web site.
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Old 11-12-2019, 12:15 PM   #4
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The Boat/US MMSI does not get put into the international data bases for SAR. The FCC issued ones do go into the international data base. Technically you do need the license and MMSI issued by the FCC if you are going to travel outside the country. Now are they going to arrest you on sight, probably not. But in an emergency not being in the international data base may be a problem if you want to get rescued, or maybe not...
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Old 11-12-2019, 03:06 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrisjs View Post
While I think we were in compliance when there, I am guessing that unless you are one of the below, you have no reason to worry:

1 Drug runner
2.Terrorist
3. Spy
4. Gun runner
5. Smuggler
6. Human trafficker
7. Other?

Stay safe.
Often easier to seek forgiveness than approval.

Meh, 4 for 7; not too bad, right?
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Old 11-12-2019, 03:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Comodave View Post
The Boat/US MMSI does not get put into the international data bases for SAR. The FCC issued ones do go into the international data base. Technically you do need the license and MMSI issued by the FCC if you are going to travel outside the country. Now are they going to arrest you on sight, probably not. But in an emergency not being in the international data base may be a problem if you want to get rescued, or maybe not...

Thanks. I will wait until I am making form plans to go to Bahamas and change it then. At least one of my radios has to go back to factory to change the MMSI, maybe it'll crap out between now and then.
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Old 11-12-2019, 05:23 PM   #7
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I am not up to date on the actual regulations, so things could have changed. But, I know of 2 Canadians who were boarded in US waters by the USCG and were found to be operating VHF equipment without a proper license (radio license as opposed to "restricted operators" license). The CG confiscated their radio equipment. This penalty did not make any sense to me (a fine would), but removing their "safety equipment" was what they did! I have not heard that this is widespread (even the checking for proper licensing), and as I said, the radio license may not now be required.
I have a radio license (only costs about $30 per year here in Canada), so to me, not a big deal. Having to send the radio in for reprogramming a MMSI is a pain!
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Old 11-12-2019, 07:22 PM   #8
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The relevant issue is that a BoatUs MMSI will not be in a foreign countries data base if you send out a distress signal, so basically useless. It's not the legality, it is the usefulness.
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Old 11-12-2019, 07:27 PM   #9
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There was a lengthy thread on this exact debate a month or two ago. I'll see if I can find it.

May actually hinder more than help though, if I remember correctly!

Edit: found it!

MMSI rant, part two
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Old 11-13-2019, 10:05 AM   #10
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The discussion so far has only been in regard to an MMSI. There is more to being a citizen of the USA and operating a radio in a foreign country than the MMSI number of a DSC radio.

In brief, in the USA you need a station license for a radio transmitter, unless that category of radio transmitter is "licensed-by-rule." The licensed-by-rule ship station license is available only to ships who are voluntarily equipping with a radio, AND the ship does not visit foreign ports, AND the ship does not make international communications, AND the radio is a VHF Marine Band radio (or AIS transponder).

For the actual federal regulations see

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/80.13

Also, generally you need radiotelephone operator's license to operate a radio transmitter. For recreational boaters with voluntarily-equipped VHF radios, the requirement to obtain an operator's license is waived, but you still must follow the rules.

If you are an American citizen and you are in a foreign country, you do not automatically have the privilege of having a radio station and operating it. You may be granted those rights if there is a reciprocal licensing agreement between the USA and the foreign country. These reciprocal licensing agreements recognize the licenses you have from the USA and permit you to operate the transmitter you have in the foreign country, but according to their rules.

Of course, if you are a recreational boater with a licensed-by-rule transmitter and no operator's license, then you really do not have any license for reciprocal authorization in a foreign country. This is the basis for the FCC rule that requires boaters who visit foreign countries to have an FCC SHIP STATION LICENSE for their transmitter and to have an FCC OPERATOR'S LICENSE to operate it.

An FCC SHIP STATION LICENSE now costs about $220 for a ten year term. You just apply for the license--actually the hardest and most difficult part of the process. During the application for an FCC SHIP STATION LICENSE you can also ask for a maritime mobile service identity (MMSI) at no extra cost. With the ship station license you will also get a RADIO CALLSIGN.

You will also need to obtain a RADIOTELEPHONE RESTRICTED OPERATOR PERMIT, the lowest category of operator's license that will permit you to operate a VHF Marine Band radio with an official license. This license is good for the LIFETIME of the licensee. I don't know the exact cost at present; it used to be about $60. To obtain one, you just apply and swear and avow you know the regulations and will follow them.

The cost of these licenses from the FCC are based on two fee categories: administrative fees and regulatory fees. The FCC fee schedule changes every few years.

USING EXISTING MMSI
As far as I know, if your boat already has an MMSI issued by a licensed-by-rule private agency (like BoatUS), you cannot use that number with the FCC SHIP STATION LICENSE. You must get a new MMSI, one that ends with a zero.

Assuming you comply with all of this, you will then have the unfortunate problem of having a DSC radio that probably cannot be re-programmed by you in the field to a new MMSI. You choices then will be:

--send the radio back to the manufacturer and have its MMSI changed or reset; this will probably cost you a fee and shipping, or about $50;

--buy a new Class-D DSC radio, which is probably better than the one you have, for a cost of about $120.

RE INFORCEMENT
I have been boating in Canada as an American citizen on my recreational boat since 1986, or 33-years. During that time no representative of any Canadian agency has ever asked me to produce a SHIP STATION LICENSE or an OPERATOR'S LICENSE. However, my boat does have an FCC ship station license, and I do hold a radiotelephone operator's license. (I actually have a much higher grade operator's license than the minimum required.)
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Old 11-13-2019, 01:17 PM   #11
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...I know of 2 Canadians who were boarded in US waters by the USCG and were found to be operating VHF equipment without a proper license (radio license as opposed to "restricted operators" license)...
A Canadian citizen aboard a Canadian recreational boat operating in the USA would probably would need Canadian radio licenses, both ship station and operator's license. I don't think a Canadian citizen visiting the USA by recreational boat would need an FCC-issued Restricted Radiotelephone Operator's Permit. In order to qualify for an FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator's Permit, you have to be a legal resident of the United States.

Quote:
Originally Posted by firehoser75 View Post
....I have a radio license (only costs about $30 per year here in Canada)...
That fee is about the same as an FCC SHIP STATION LICENSE, which is $220 for ten years, or $22/year. In the total cost of boat ownership and operating expenses, it is trivial.
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Old 11-14-2019, 11:58 AM   #12
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Regarding the appearance of an MMSI in an international database:

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has a website for look-up of information about ship station licensees. You can search for a ship on the basis of:

--ship name
--ship callsign
--ship number
--ship maritime mobile service identity (MMSI)
--EPIRB hex ID code
--EPIRB ID code
--administration (country)
--geographic area

With this resource it is a simple matter to discover if your vessels and its MMSI has been listed in the ITU database.

The notion that if you have an FCC-issued ship station license then your vessel is automatically included in this database is not always true. There was a period of time then the FCC was not sending data to his database. Some ship station licensees with ship station licenses issued many years ago were not in the ITU database. I believe the FCC became aware of this and was working to remedy this omission.

To see it your ship station appears in the ITU database, just visit their search page, available at

https://www.itu.int/mmsapp/ShipStation/list

Usually just one element of the several search parameters needs to be entered to produce a search result. If you search by vessel name and the name is a common name, you may get multiple results. Searching by MMSI usually gives unique results.
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