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Communication
VHF Marine Radio Channels for Recreational Boaters

Photo Credit: National Safe Boating Council

It’s important that boaters use the correct channel when communicating on a VHF (very high frequency) marine band radio.

It’s important that boers use the correct channel when communicating on a VHF (very high frequency) marine band radio.

Boater Calling Channel (VHF Channel 9)

The Federal Communications Commission established VHF-FM channel 9 as a supplementary calling channel for noncommercial vessels (recreational boaters) at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard. A ship or shore unit wishing to call a boater would do so on channel 9, and anyone (boaters included) wishing to call a commercial ship or shore activity would continue to do so on channel 16. Recreational boaters would continue to call the Coast Guard and any commercial facility on channel 16.

The purpose of the FCC regulation was to relieve congestion on VHF channel 16, the distress, safety and calling frequency. FCC regulations require boaters having VHF radios to maintain a watch on either VHF channel 9 or channel 16, whenever the radio is turned on and not communicating with another station.

Since the Coast Guard generally does not have the capability of announcing an urgent marine information broadcast or weather warning on channel 9, use of channel 9 is optional. The Coast Guard recommends boaters normally keep tuned to and use channel 16 in those waters unless otherwise notified by the Coast Guard.

Here are the VHF channels most frequently used by recreational boaters. Please note, channel numbers previously designated by a two-digital channel number ending with the letter A are now recognized internationally by a four-digit channel number beginning with a “10.” For example, Channel 22A is now 1022. For a complete list of U.S. VHF marine radio channels, please visit The Navigation Center for Excellence.

New Channel Number Old Channel Number Ship Transmit MHz

Ship Receive MHz

 Use

 09  09  156.450  156.450 Boater Calling. Commercial and Non-Commercial. VDSMS
 13  13  156.650  156.650 Intership Navigation Safety (Bridge-to-bridge). Ships >20m length maintain a listening watch on this channel in US waters.
 16  16  156.800  156.800 International Distress, Safety and Calling. Ships required to carry radio, USCG, and most coast stations maintain a listening watch on this channel.
 1022  22A  157.100  157.100 Coast Guard Liaison and Maritime Safety Information Broadcasts. Broadcasts announced on channel 16.
 68  68  156.425  156.375 Non-Commercial. VDSMS
 69 69  156.475  156.475 Non-Commercial. VDSMS
 70 70  156.525  156.525 Digital Selective Calling (voice communications not allowed)
 71 71  156.575  156.575 Non-Commercial. VDSMS
 72 72  156.625  156.625 Non-Commercial (Intership only). VDSMS