VHF marine

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VHF Marine Band, marine radio, VHF radio, VHF radiotelephone or even "VHF marine CB" to some people. Worldwide allocation 156-162 MHz. Several country-specific variations. In some parts of the USA, parts of the marine band is allocated to other services (either on a primary or secondary basis). Mixture of simplex and half-duplex (split-channel) allocations. Some channels used as repeaters in certain countries (Australia, New Zealand), as links to landline telephone system (defunct now) or crossband to other marine allocations such as 27 MHz or HF marine.

Like many other VHF / UHF Radio services, the VHF marine band is heavily pirated (or bootlegged) for non-marine land mobile purposes. It is especially popular with hunters, truckers, logging companies and delivery services. While similar services such as plain old CB, MURS, FRS and GMRS exist to fill these needs, the VHF marine band continues to suffer from misuse, especially away from water where enforcement is difficult. So common is VHF marine usage by hunters that it has earned the nickname "The Bambi Band". Although, in the late 2010s, the number of hunting clubs switching from VHF marine to licensed FCC business radio frequencies is steadily increasing, probably more because of interference issues and less because of FCC enforcement.

In the United States, the Public Correspondence channel pairs (the old marine radiotelephone full duplex pairs) - channels 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 84, 85, 86 and 87 have been reassigned in large portions of the country for land mobile radio. Public Correspondence radio phone services have long been discontinued. However, as of 2021, marine radios set to USA mode still have channels 24-28 programmed for duplex operation. Most radios now include channel 87 as 87A (simplex) in USA mode.

Some radios also include channels 84, 85 and 86 as 84A, 85A and 86A as additional simplex channels. Since some radios do not have access to all these frequencies in simplex mode, they are often used by boaters looking for a clear channel when other non-commercial channels are congested. The same is true with channels 02, 03, 04, 60A, 61A, 62A and 64A. Older radios (for example, the Uniden Solara) allow the user to use channels 60, 61, 62 and 64 in simplex mode but do not allow the user to use channels 84-87 in simplex mode. Because there's so much variation with respect to these sometimes-simplex channels and only-allowed-in-some-areas Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) channels, they are sometimes used as "general purpose" channels. The commercial, port operations and non-commercial channels are often used by recreational boaters.

Internationally, the VHF marine band is set up for either single frequency (simplex) or split-frequency (duplex). On duplex channels, the higher side is the "B" channel, the lower/simplex channel is the "A" channel. VHF marine radios set to "USA mode" operate in simplex mode only, making all channels "A". One will often hear a channel referred to in this manner "channel 22A" for example, simply means channel 22, simplex.

The 156.000 MHz to 156.250 MHz region is shared with Part 90 land mobile in certain parts of the United States. This comprises public safety allocations from 155.9925 MHz to 156.2550 MHz (7.5 kHz steps). This overlaps with VHF marine channels 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 60, 61, 62, and 63.

In some areas, land mobile allocations are prohibited above 156 MHz to prevent interference with VHF marine communications (for example, in the New Orleans area, in certain Canadian border regions, etc.)



Contents

VHF Marine Channels - USA Channels - US Channels New and Old Channel Numbering

4-digit channel numbers for simplex frequencies...some channels are still two-digit. USCG recommends use of the 10xx channel designators for the old A designators for simplex channels (for example, 22A becomes 1022). Under the 4 digit channel numbering system, the B channels are re-designated under 20xx series. In other words, channel 27B becomes channel 2027. Since the vast majority of US marine traffic is simplex, it's simply a question of renaming the "A" simplex-only channels. Channels that have always been simplex - such as channel 16, etc. retain their two digit designators.

New Channel Number Old Channel Number Frequency Purpose/Use (USA)
1001 01A 156.050 MHz VTS/Port Ops/Commercial, New Orleans/Lower Mississippi River area only
1005 05A 156.250 MHz VTS/Port Ops/Commercial, Houston, Seattle, and New Orleans/Lower Mississippi River areas only
06 06 156.300 MHz Intership Safety
1007 07A 156.350 MHz Commercial
08 08 156.400 MHz Commercial (Intership only)
09 09 156.450 MHz Boater Calling (Commercial/Non-Commercial)
10 10 156.500 MHz Commercial
11 11 156.550 MHz Commercial, VTS in certain areas
12 12 156.600 MHz Port Ops, VTS in certain areas
13 13 156.650 MHz Bridge-to-bridge/Intership Navigation Safety
14 14 156.700 MHz Port Ops, VTS in certain areas
15 15 156.750 MHz Environmental (Receive Only), US Government Use, Class C EPIRBs
16 16 156.800 MHz International Distress, Safety and Calling. USCG, coast stations, and ships maintain watch on this channel
17 17 156.850 MHz State and/or Local Government Maritime Control
1018 18A 156.900 MHz Commercial
1019 19A 156.950 MHz Commercial
1020 20A 157.000 MHz Port Ops
1021 21A 157.050 MHz US Coast Guard Only
1022 22A 157.100 MHz US Coast Guard Liaison and Safety Information Broadcasts
1023 23A 157.150 MHz US Coast Guard Only
24 24 157.200 MHz - DUPLEX VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted
25 25 157.250 MHz - DUPLEX VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted
26 26 157.300 MHz - DUPLEX VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted
27 27 157.350 MHz - DUPLEX VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted
28 28 157.400 MHz - DUPLEX VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted
1063 63A 156.175 MHz VTS/Port Ops/Commercial, New Orleans/Lower Mississippi River area only
1065 65A 156.275 MHz Port Ops
1066 66A 156.325 MHz Port Ops
67 67 156.375 MHz Commercial (Intership Only)
68 68 156.425 MHz Non-Commercial, Recreational Boaters
69 69 156.475 MHz Non-Commercial, Recreational Boaters
70 70 156.525 MHz DSC (No voice transmissions permitted)
71 71 156.575 MHz Non-Commercial, Recreational Boaters
72 72 156.625 MHz Non-Commercial (Intership Only), Recreational Boaters
73 73 156.675 MHz Port Ops
74 74 156.725 MHz Port Ops
77 77 156.875 MHz Port Ops (Intership Only)
1078 78A 156.925 MHz Non-Commercial, Recreational Boaters
1079 79A 156.975 MHz Commercial. Non-Commercial in Great Lakes only.
1080 80A 157.025 MHz Commercial. Non-Commercial in Great Lakes only.
1081 81A 157.075 MHz US Coast Guard/US Government Only/Environmental Protection
1082 82A 157.125 MHz US Coast Guard Only
1083 83A 157.175 MHz US Coast Guard Only
84 84 157.225 MHz - DUPLEX - some radios include 84A/1084!as simplex VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted
85 85 157.275 MHz - DUPLEX - some radios include 85A/1085 as simplex VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted
86 86 157.325 MHz - DUPLEX - some radios include 86A/1086 as simplex VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted
87 87 157.375 MHz - some older radios only allow duplex use of 87 Commercial/Non-Commercial (Intership Only), Recreational Boaters
88 88 157.425 MHz Commercial/Non-Commercial (Intership Only), Recreational Boaters
AIS 1 AIS 1 161.975 MHz Automatic Identification System (AIS Channel 1/Channel 87B)
AIS 2 AIS 2 162.025 MHz Automatic Identification System (AIS Channel 2/Channel 88B)

VHF Marine Channels USA Channels - Simplex and Duplex

Note that channels 02A, 04A, 60A, 61A, 62A and 64A are not available for legal use in the USA. However, some or all of these channels are available in USA mode in many VHF marine radios as simplex channels. Use is usually commercial or non-commercial ship to ship / intership. Channels 84, 85 and 86 are still technically and legally allocated for duplex use only, but many radios sold in the United States include 84A, 85A and 86A as simplex channels in addition to 87A and 88 (or 88A) as simplex ship-to-ship channels. These channels - 84A, 85A and 86A, as well as 87A and 88 (or 88A) are often used by recreational boaters, fishing fleets and various other non-commercial and commercial uses.

Older-generation VHF marine radios may only allow simplex use of channel 88. Other radios allow simplex use of channels 88 and 87. Older-generation VHF marine equipment is also more likely to have channels 60, 61, 62 and 64 available as simplex channels. Newer equipment may or may not include channels 84, 85 and 86 as simplex channels in USA mode.

Channel 01A (1001) and 05A (1005) are only available for use in very specific areas. These channels are used nationwide for commercial and non-commercial (recreational boats) intership communications outside the VTS zones.


Channel Frequency Purpose/Use (USA) Simplex or Duplex
01A 156.050 MHz VTS/Port Ops/Commercial, New Orleans/Lower Mississippi River area only - often used outside these areas Simplex
03A 156.150 MHz Not allocated for marine use in the United States, but still used in some areas Simplex
05A 156.250 MHz VTS/Port Ops/Commercial, Houston, Seattle, and New Orleans/Lower Mississippi River areas only Simplex
06 156.300 MHz Intership Safety Simplex
07A 156.350 MHz Commercial Simplex
08 156.400 MHz Commercial (Intership only) Simplex
09 156.450 MHz Calling (Commercial/Non-Commercial) - secondary to VHF 16 Simplex
10 156.500 MHz Commercial Simplex
11 156.550 MHz Commercial, VTS in certain areas Simplex
12 156.600 MHz Port Ops, VTS in certain areas Simplex
13 156.650 MHz Bridge-to-bridge/Intership Navigation Safety Simplex, low power only - 1 watt
14 156.700 MHz Port Operations, VTS in some areas Simplex
15 156.750 MHz Environmental (Receive Only), US Government Use, Class C EPIRBs Receive Only
16 156.800 MHz International Distress, Safety and Calling. USCG, coast stations, and ships maintain watch on this channel Simplex
17 156.850 MHz State and/or Local Government Maritime Control Simplex, low power only - 1 watt
18A 156.900 MHz Commercial Simplex
19 156.950 MHz Commercial Simplex
20 157.000 MHz Port Operations Duplex, Shore TX 161.600 MHz
20A 157.000 MHz Port Operations Simplex
21A 157.050 MHz US Coast Guard Only Simplex
22A 157.100 MHz US Coast Guard Liaison and Safety Information Broadcasts Simplex
23A 157.150 MHz US Coast Guard Only Simplex
24 157.200 MHz Public Correspondence (service discontinued) Duplex, Shore TX 161.800 MHz
24A 157.200 MHz VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted Simplex - only available on some radios (others only allow use of this as a duplex channel)
25 157.200 MHz Public Correspondence (service discontinued) Duplex, Shore TX 161.850 MHz
25A 157.250 MHz VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted Simplex - only available on some radios (others only allow use of this as a duplex channel)
26 157.300 MHz Public Correspondence (service discontinued) Duplex, Shore TX 161.900 MHz
27 157.350 MHz Public Correspondence (service discontinued) Duplex, Shore TX 161.950 MHz
27A 157.350 MHz VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted Simplex - only available on some radios (others only allow use of this as a duplex channel)
28 157.400 MHz Public Correspondence (service discontinued) Duplex, Shore TX 162.000 MHz
28A 157.400 MHz VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted Simplex - only available on some radios (others only allow use of this as a duplex channel)
61A 156.075 MHz Intership (East Coast only) Fishing, Commercial and Non-Commercial Simplex
63A 156.175 MHz VTS/Port Ops/Commercial, New Orleans/Lower Mississippi River area only Simplex
64A 156.225 MHz Intership (East Coast only) Fishing, Commercial and Non-Commercial Simplex
65A 156.275 MHz Port Ops Simplex
66A 156.325 MHz Port Ops Simplex
67 156.375 MHz Commercial (Intership Only) Simplex
68 156.425 MHz Non-Commercial, Recreational Boaters Simplex
69 156.475 MHz Non-Commercial, Recreational Boaters Simplex
70 156.525 MHz DSC (No voice transmissions permitted) Simplex
71 156.575 MHz Non-Commercial, Recreational Boaters Simplex
72 156.625 MHz Non-Commercial (Intership Only), Recreational Boaters Simplex
73 156.675 MHz Port Ops Simplex
74 156.725 MHz Port Ops Simplex
77 156.875 MHz Port Ops (Intership Only) Simplex
78A 156.925 MHz Non-Commercial, Recreational Boaters Simplex
79A 156.975 MHz Commercial. Non-Commercial in Great Lakes only. Simplex
80A 157.025 MHz Commercial. Non-Commercial in Great Lakes only. Simplex
81A 157.075 MHz US Coast Guard/US Government Only/Environmental Protection Simplex
82A 157.125 MHz US Coast Guard Only Simplex
83A 157.175 MHz US Coast Guard Only Simplex
84 157.225 MHz Public Correspondence (service discontinued) Duplex, Shore TX 161.825 MHz
84A 157.225 MHz VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted Simplex - only available on some radios (others only allow use of this as a duplex channel)
85 157.275 MHz Public Correspondence (service discontinued) Duplex, Shore TX 161.875 MHz
85A 157.275 MHz VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted Simplex - only available on some radios (others only allow use of this as a duplex channel)
86 157.325 MHz Public Correspondence (service discontinued) Duplex, Shore TX 161.925 MHz
86A 157.325 MHz VHF Digital Small Message Services (VDSMS), Analog Voice Also Permitted Simplex - only available on some radios (others only allow use of this as a duplex channel)
87 157.425 MHz Commercial/Non-Commercial (Intership Only), Recreational Boaters Simplex
88 157.425 MHz Commercial/Non-Commercial (Intership Only), Recreational Boaters Simplex
AIS 1 87B 161.975 MHz Automatic Identification System (AIS Channel 1/Channel 87B) Simplex
AIS 2 88B 162.025 MHz Automatic Identification System (AIS Channel 2/Channel 88B) Simplex
AIS 3 75 / 75A / 1075 156.775 MHz Automatic Identification System (AIS Channel 3/Channel 75) Simplex
AIS 4 76 / 76A / 1076 156.825 MHz Automatic Identification System (AIS Channel 4/Channel 76) Simplex
WX 1 162.550 MHz NOAA Weather Radio Receive Only
WX 2 162.400 MHz NOAA Weather Radio Receive Only
WX 3 162.475 MHz NOAA Weather Radio Receive Only
WX 4 162.425 MHz NOAA Weather Radio Receive Only
WX 5 162.450 MHz NOAA Weather Radio Receive Only
WX 6 162.500 MHz NOAA Weather Radio (Receive Only) Receive Only
WX 7 162.525 MHz NOAA Weather Radio (Receive Only) Receive Only
WX 8 161.650 MHz Weather Radio Canada - VHF Channel 21B Receive Only
WX 9 161.775 MHz Weather Radio Canada - VHF Channel 83B Receive Only
WX 10 163.275 MHz Weather Radio Canada Receive Only


The WX channels may be in order from lowest frequency to highest frequency, the original 3 NOAA Weather Radio frequencies (162.55 MHz, 162.4 MHz and 162.475 MHz) were supplanted by the 4 additional frequencies later on. Weather channels 8, 9 and 10 are only used in Canada.

Channels 24-28 and 84-87 were allocated for "coast station" (radiotelephone) services but these are no longer used. In some countries VHF marine continues to operate as a duplex system, with certain areas implementing repeaters (Australia for example). In other countries such as the United States, the 161 MHz high side ("B" channel) of the duplex pairs for these channels (161.800 - 162.000 MHz) have been re-allocated to other services, including land mobile radio, public safety systems and reserve/emergency interoperability frequencies.

In some countries (including the UK for some channels) semi-duplex is used for ship-to-shore communications, even though no operational benefit is gained using duplex vs. regular simplex.

Land mobile users of the 157.2 MHz to 157.4 MHz and 161.8 to 162.0 MHz frequencies are still licensed as Radio Service Code PC - Public Coast Stations, Auctioned. A licensed user will acquire a block of frequencies as well as a market area. For example, instead of being licensed for 157.2 MHz and 161.8 MHz, a user will be licensed for 157.18125 MHz to 151.20625 MHz and 161.78125 MHz to 161.80625 MHz.

This practice is common in areas where the VHF high band is used for wide-area trunking systems, often for public safety or law enforcement purposes. The 160.2 MHz to 161.64 MHz portion is allocated for use by railroad systems in the United States and Canada (NFM voice and NXDN digital voice/data).

In other countries, a mix of simplex and duplex channel plans are used. The duplex (or B channel) is + 4.6 MHz offset from the A channel. Not all channels are used in duplex mode in all other places, and simplex use is extremely common (as is the US standard of simplex only).

The FCC permits use of the shared marine frequencies discussed in areas away from the coasts and major waterways to avoid interference. Channels 24-28 and 84-87 are officially still allocated to duplex radiotelephone and VHF Digital Small Message Service data services but are heavily used for analog voice communications, usually non-commercial in nature.

Channel 70 (156.525 MHz) is used for Digital Selective Calling (DSC) and voice communications are not permitted.

156.800 MHz - VHF marine channel 16, is the international VHF distress, safety, and calling channel.

VHF marine radio frequency bands (international allocation)

156.000-157.425 MHz Simplex/Duplex on certain channels/in certain areas 160.600-162.025 MHz Duplex 161.975 Automatic Identification System (AIS) 162.025 Automatic Identification System (AIS)

Additional VHF Marine Channels (Simplex) - Not Authorized in USA - European Private Use

Channel Frequency Purpose/Use
00 156.000 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex, used for Search and Rescue (SAR) services in the UK, other services elsewhere
29 157.450 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
30 157.500 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
31 or 31A 157.550 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
31 or 31B 162.150 MHz Marina/Leisure Use (Netherlands Only)
32 157.600 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
33 157.650 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
34 157.700 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
35 157.750 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
36 157.800 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
37 157.850 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
38A 157.900 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
38B 162.500 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
39 157.950 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
40 158.000 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
41 158.050 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
42 158.100 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
43 158.150 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
44 158.200 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
45 158.250 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
46 158.300 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
47 158.350 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
48 158.400 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
49 158.450 MHz Private Ship to Ship/Ship to Shore Simplex
96 162.425 MHz Marina Use Only (Belgium only, same frequency as Weather Radio in US and Canada)
M1 (UK) or M 157.850 MHz Private Marina Channel (private marinas, yacht clubs, etc), UK only - channel 37
M2 (UK) 161.425 MHz Private Marina Channel (private marinas, yacht clubs, etc), UK only
M3 (UK) 161.225 MHz Private Marina Channel (private marinas, yacht clubs, etc), UK only
P1 (UK) 161.350 MHz On board ship comms only (low power)
P2 (UK) 161.450 MHz On board ship comms only (low power)
P1 (Nordic) 155.500 MHz Private Marina/Yacht club channel, Nordic countries only
P2 (Nordic) 155.525 MHz Private Marina/Yacht club channel, Nordic countries only
P3 (Nordic) 155.650 MHz Private Marina/Yacht club channel, Nordic countries only
P4 (Nordic) 155.625 MHz Private Fishing Trawler channel, Nordic countries only
P5 (Nordic) 155.775 MHz Private Fishing Trawler channel, Nordic countries only
P6 (Nordic) 155.825 MHz Private Fishing Trawler channel, Nordic countries only
L1 (Denmark) 155.500 MHz Private Channel, Denmark only, Leisure Use Only
L2 (Denmark) 155.525 MHz Private Channel, Denmark only, Leisure Use Only
F1 155.625 MHz Fishing Use Only, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden
F2 155.775 MHz Fishing Use Only, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden
F3 155.825 MHz Fishing Use Only, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden
P1 (Denmark) 155.375 MHz Private Channel, Denmark only
P2 (Denmark) 155.575 MHz Private Channel, Denmark only
P3 (Denmark) 155.450 MHz Private Channel, Denmark only
P4 (Denmark) 155.800 MHz Private Channel, Denmark only

On-board or Dockside UHF Marine (portables and on-ship or dockside repeater use)

10 MHz offset (international plan) 10.225 MHz offset (US and Canada channel plan). Input frequencies may be used for simplex purposes as well. International channel plan frequencies interfere with US-allocated GMRS and FRS frequencies. Frequencies are shared with UHF business band in the United States. Elsewhere, other UHF on-board radio systems may be used, including PMR446 or other dedicated systems generally in the 400-512 MHz or 380-520 MHz UHF range.

Channel Frequency (repeater output or simplex) Frequency (repeater input or simplex)
1 (International) 457.5250 MHz 467.5250 MHz
2 (International) 457.5375 MHz 467.5375 MHz
3 (International) 457.5500 MHz 467.5500 MHz
4 (International) 457.5625 MHz 467.5625 MHz
5 (International) 457.5750 MHz 467.5750 MHz
1 (USA, Canada) 457.5250 MHz 467.7500 MHz
2 (USA, Canada) 457.5375 MHz 467.7625 MHz
3 (USA, Canada) 457.5500 MHz 467.7750 MHz
4 (USA, Canada) 457.5625 MHz 467.7875 MHz
5 (USA, Canada) 457.5750 MHz 467.8000 MHz
6 (USA, Canada) 457.5875 MHz 467.8125 MHz
7 (USA, Canada) 457.6000 MHz 467.8250 MHz
8 (USA, Canada) 457.6125 MHz 467.8375 MHz

VHF marine band equipment

Modern ICOM IC-M605 VHF marine band radio with built-in GPS and DSC capability. 156 MHz - 163 MHz simplex and duplex. This radio is tuned to the international distress and calling channel 16 frequency of 156.800 MHz
Older-generation Uniden MC635 VHF marine band radio without DSC capability 156-163 MHz simplex and duplex VHF-FM transceiver. This radio is tuned to the international distress and calling channel 16 frequency of 156.8 MHz.



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