While at the Toronto Boat Show this past week, I noticed a trend among the boating community that visited our Booth. The trend was easy to pick up. The number one question was ‘Do I need a licence for my VHF?’ and secondly ‘I need to update my VHF radio and was wondering what the DSC meant?’
Well, the first answer to needing a license is NO, it is not a licence but rather a certificate that is needed. Industry Canada (the governing body for radio use in Canada) 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. This is a much needed instructional interactive course that will teach you how to use your radio and how to react to emergency operation while under emotional stress. This will allow you to operate your radio effectively and enable a quick response time from the emergency response teams (Canadian Coast Guard or other operators nearby).
DSC means Digital Selective Calling. VHF-DSC maritime radios function as a normal VHF radio, but are also capable of sending and receiving digital messages on VHF channel 70. By lifting the red cover and then pressing the red distress button for at least 5 seconds, a digital distress call will be sent to the Canadian Coast Guard and vessels in the vicinity that are also equipped with VHF-DSC. If you connect your GPS to your VHF-DSC, this digital distress call will contain your up-to-date fix or your current longitude/latitude position. Certain models of VHF-DSC can also respond to position polls from other VHF-DSC radios
Updating an outdated VHF maritime radio means you need to buy a new radio equipped with the DSC function. All maritime VHF radios today are sold with this function. While at the boat show a Canadian Coast Guard official was discussing a chart with me when he over-heard a customer ask another Radioworld employee about the MMSI registration. The Official stated that it is absolutly necessary to register your new radio. You will need to obtain your MMSI number which stands for Maritime Mobile Service Identity and is used for radios with the digital selective calling feature. You can obtain an MMSI number free-of-charge from any Industry Canada office. The application forms are also available from Industry Canada (see above link).