Frequently Asked Questions


  1. Do I need a call sign/radio station licence?
  2. How do I obtain a radio station licence?
  3. Do I need a radio operator's certificate?
  4. What is an MMSI number?
  5. What is an EPIRB?
  6. What is a VHF-DSC radio?
  7. Will fitting a VHF-DSC radio cause my vessel to be tracked?
  8. What is an NMEA input?
  9. Do I need to have my radio station inspected?

1. Do I need a call sign or a radio station licence for my boat or vessel?

Industry Canada has exempted Canadian vessels that are not operated in the territorial waters of another country from the requirement for a station licence. For more information, please refer to Licensing exemptions Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED).

2. I'm planning a trip to the United States. How do I obtain a radio station licence?

Obtain a copy of IC-3020 - Application for a Maritime Mobile Radio Station Licence from ISED.

You should forward your completed application to ISED. A list of ISED offices is provided in Radiocommunication Information Circular RIC-66 on their website.

3. Do I need a radio operator's certificate?

Marine radiotelephones fitted onboard Canadian vessels, must be operated by a person holding a Radio Operator's Certificate ( ROC-M ). Commercial vessels required to fit Digital Selective Calling or a satellite ship earth station must employ radio operators holding a Radio Operator's Certificate - Maritime Commercial ( ROC-MC ).

ISED has delegated the ROC-M to the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons ( CPS ) and courses are available in many areas. Further information can be found on the CPS website.

4. What is an MMSI number and how can I obtain one?

MMSI stands for Maritime Mobile Service Identity and is used for radios with digital selective calling, as well as Automatic Identification System ( AIS ) transponders. You can obtain an MMSI number free-of-charge from any Industry Canada office. The application forms are also available from ISED.

5. What is an EPIRB ?

An EPIRB is an Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon. The EPIRB 's 406 MHz signal is relayed by satellite to Search and Rescue. To be effective, a 406 MHz EPIRB must be registered with the Canadian Beacon Registry. Registration information is available at the National Search and Rescue Secretariat website.

6. What is a VHF-DSC radio and how is it different than my present VHF ?

DSC means Digital Selective Calling. VHF-DSC radios function as a normal VHF radio but are also capable of sending and receiving digital messages on VHF channel 70. Selective calls can be made to one vessel or groups of vessels, and, by lifting the cover and then pressing the red distress button for at least 3 seconds, a digital distress call will be sent to the Coast Guard and vessels in the vicinity that are also equipped with VHF-DSC. If you connect a GPS to your VHF-DSC, this digital distress call will contain an up-to-date position. Certain models of VHF-DSC can also respond to position polls from other VHF-DSC radios.

More information on VHF-DSC can be found in Ship Safety Bulletin 2002/04.

7. Will fitting a VHF-DSC radio cause my vessel to be tracked by others?

No. Some VHF-DSC radios will allow for an automatic response to a position poll from another VHF-DSC , but the operator must enable this feature. The Automatic Identification System, or AIS , is used for this purpose, as well as vessel traffic management and collision avoidance.

8. What is an NMEA input and why doesn't mine work?

An NMEA input refers to a standardized serial communication interface between various types of marine equipment. As an example, it is the NMEA output of a GPS that provides a position input to a VHF-DSC , or to your chartplotter. Some GPS receivers are capable of various types of data outputs and, at various data rates. Refer to the operator's manual for both your GPS and the equipment requiring a GPS input to ensure the settings between the two pieces of equipment are compatible. There is more information about GPS interfaces (in English only) at

9. Do I need to have my radio station inspected?

Radio inspection certificate

Section. 240 (1) of the Navigation Safety Regulations, 2020

The following vessels, other than a Safety Convention vessel, must have a radio inspection certificate to engage on a voyage:

  1. a vessel that is 20 m or more in length;
  2. a towboat; and
  3. a passenger vessel that is engaged on a voyage any part of which is in Sea Area A1 or more than five nautical miles from shore on the seacoasts of Canada

The application form for the inspection of a compulsorily-fitted ship station can be found in Part 4 of Radio Aids to Marine Navigation of the Canadian Coast Guard website.

Please note that fees associated with the CCG radio inspector's travel and overtime will be charged in accordance with the Ship Radio Inspection Fees Regulations. Ship operators are advised to provide as much notice as possible and arrange inspections to coincide with inspections on other ships in remote locations.