Sunday, May 28, 2006

FCC VHF License Required for Cruising Outside of USA

We read that all American boats cruising outside of the USA need to have a VHF license that is issued from the FCC. Besides a license for the boat, there has to be a licensed operator as well. So, we've taken care of this bit of paperwork electronically and would like to pass on what we have learned.

First, sign up for an FCC user account so you can apply for licenses (and renew) online. Bookmark this address as you will want to use it in the future to login to your account:

To get an FRN (FCC Registration Number), click on the option "Need An FRN?"

After completing your registration they will send you a confirmation email which will have your FRN and password. Keep this where you can find it later as I find it useful to cut and paste the 10-digit FRN and the computer-generated password.

OK, so now login to the FCC License Manager System.

On the left side of the screen, click on the top option: Apply For A New License

On this next screen, there is a drop-down menu with over 80 options. Select "SA - Ship" and proceed from there.

On one of the pages it will ask you for a Search & Rescue Emergency Contact Name. This is optional, you can leave it blank and hit "Next" although it will give you a message box. Read the instructions in the box on how to proceed. If I remember right, it will then ask you about liferafts or safety equipment. You don't have to answer these questions either...

So, complete the form and it will give you a summary. You can then go ahead and pay by credit card. It was so easy once I knew that "SA" was the correct option to apply for the VHF license. This license costs $155 (May 2006) and is valid for 10 years.

Next, you need to have a license to legally operate the VHF radio. So, login to your FCC account or get back to the entry page and click on "Apply For A New License".

This time, from the drop-down menu, select the option "RR - Restricted Operator". This license is good for life and costs $55 (May 2006) so we both got one.

I called their support line because I wasn't quite sure if I was filling in the correct form for the VHF license, plus the figures and form numbers were different to what I'd read in the Seven Seas Cruising Association newsletter. The support person was very nice, helpful, and had answers! Hurray!!!

Here is a FAQ on the FCC website for Ship Radio Stations:

Under the section "Do I Need a Ship Radio Station License?" You will see:
" Ships are considered as operating domestically when they do not travel to foreign ports or do not transmit radio communications to foreign stations. Sailing in international waters is permitted, so long as the previous conditions are met. If you travel to a foreign port (e.g., Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands) a license is required. Additionally, if you travel to a foreign port, you are required to have an operator permit as described in Section III."

Hope this helps out our fellow cruisers.
So It Goes...