VHF Radio advice?

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Bards
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by Bards » Tue Dec 22, 2009 12:20 pm

Hmmm, I'd always assumed that the correct use of dessicant sachets would take care of humidity issues and avoid some of the problems mentioned. Have I made an incorrect assumption based on my undoubted ignorance and just been lucky so far? Or have the problems mentioned been associated with Aquapacs not adequately dessicated (either no decent sachets used, or just sachets not regularly dried well enough). Like others I'm a bit phobic of salt and electrics, but maybe it's not the biggest long-term threat after all. Definitely maybe- my jury's out to lunch...

Does anyone reading have solid practical experience or else knowledge of water vapour behaviour on the molecular level to impart?! If so, hats off, as you're light years ahead of my groping in the dark approach. Boffins - you've got to love 'em!

I'd like to know if poss and then put this dilemma to bed with some warm milk ;-)

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Douglas Wilcox
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:28 pm

Bards unless your electronics and dessicant sachet are completely dry before you put them into an aquapac, 3 hours in the afternoon sun on deck will drive the water out of the dessicant sachet and create a very hot humid atmosphere inside the aquapac. This will very easily penetrate the water resistant casing of your electronics. I lost a Garmin etrex and a Cobra vhf this way. Perhaps it was switching them on later, when they had cooled and the water vapour inside the case had condensed on contacts which did the damage.

Douglas

Bards
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by Bards » Tue Dec 22, 2009 5:55 pm

Thanks Douglas - sounds like it should be a worry then at the very least in warm and humid conditions... and as the chances of combining both cold-weather paddling and meticulous detail to equipment prep are sub-zero for me, I reckon I'll keep an eye out for a roadside tennis ball for the buoyancy if need be ;-)
It always used to live on a BA lanyard; I reckon it'll be back there for 2010!

Thanks again,

Bards

riph72
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by riph72 » Thu Dec 31, 2009 9:34 pm

Chris Bolton wrote:If you search for information about GDMSS you will find lots of references to DSC - Digital Selective Calling. This is a bit like having a phone number for your radio; people who want to call you direct the call directly to you, without having to broadcast on channel 16. This has been introduced because ch 16 was getting overcrowded. Unfortunately there are no handheld DSC sets available - despite the fact that for the last 10 years, all fixed sets have legally had to have DSC. This is an increasing problem for paddlers, as DSC is becoming the standard and ships don't have to listen on ch 16 any more. I'm not sure if the lack of DSC handhelds is because the technology is too expensive, too big or because they haven't been licensed for sale.

The simple summary is if you're buying a handheld set to use in a kayak, you can just ignore DSC - you can't have one because there aren't any.

Chris

PS - I will be very happy to be contradicted by anyone who has a handheld DSC set!
I've been thinking about getting a VHF radio in the near future, but I'm put off by this post. If I buy a handheld now without DSC, will it be a waste of money in no time at all if DSC models become available?

And, is there any point if ships are already not obliged to listen in on channel 16 anymore? Who is listening, it's just the CG I guess?

Is it worth just waiting until handheld DSC units become available in the UK? Apart from the fact it's not attached to the person, what are the problems with using a fixed VHF radio (i.e. with DSC) in a kayak?

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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by Summit to Sea » Thu Dec 31, 2009 9:45 pm

riph72 wrote: I've been thinking about getting a VHF radio in the near future, but I'm put off by this post. If I buy a handheld now without DSC, will it be a waste of money in no time at all if DSC models become available?

Is it worth just waiting until handheld DSC units become available in the UK? ?

I felt like that 7 years ago when I did my VHF course, after waiting Three years for an affordable, useful DSC unit to come onto the Market I bit the bullet and bought a regular unit.

I spoke to the team at Standard Horizon UK, 2 days before Christmas, while I was oicking up some regular units, they are now hoping for CE approval of their unit in March, last time I was there in early October they were hoping for January......

Happy New Year!!

Pete

riph72
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by riph72 » Thu Dec 31, 2009 10:06 pm

I've just subscribed to the Standard Horizon UK newsletter... guess I'll just hold fire for a while then!

Incidentally, does anyone use a fixed VHF radio in kayaks, or is it a complete no-no?

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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by Owen » Fri Jan 01, 2010 11:31 am

The limiting factor with all hand held radios is their short range, having DSC wont change this. If your not in range of a receiving station no one will hear you, whichever type of set you have. The CG with their big antennas will be the most likely to pick up your signal but all boats should still be listening to ch 16.
Without DSC you make an initial call on ch16 then go to one of the chat channels, have your talk then go back to ch16.
With DSC your initial call goes out digitally on ch70, with the call goes the chat channel to use this comes up on the screen. The receiving set will get this no matter what channel their listening to, a bleeper also goes off if they have it on. Then you go to the chat channel, that's the only difference for routine calls.
For an emergency call you push the big red panic button, this sets off the bleeper in any set within range; with a hand held that's going to be about 5 - 6km. If you have a built in GPS it will give your position, you should if you can then follow up with a voice mayday on ch16.
Without the DSC you just make a mayday on ch16 as before, if there's anyone around they will respond. As I see it the problem isn't that you wont be heard because you don't have the right set, it's that you just wont be heard.
I've had my VHF set for five years, within our own little group we pick a chat channel before we set out; so we don't have to make the initial call on ch16.
If I call the GC it's on ch16, never had a problem getting a responce when I've been within range.
I have twice called yachties on ch16 for the weather they both answered. Never felt the need to speak to big ships, always assumed they would be to busy, I just keep out of their way.
Would a hand held DSC set be worth the extra cost? I'm not convinced.

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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by riph72 » Fri Jan 01, 2010 12:24 pm

Owen, thanks for that very informative post. I was aware that there is a power difference between handheld and fixed radios, but hadn't made the obvious leap to the conclusion that this would affect usage range!
Typically, what is the power difference, and hence the range difference [I see you've answered part of this - 5-6Km for handheld]?

I guess that boats/ships are more likely to pick up a DSC emergency call because they don't have to monitor CH16 anymore, although as you point out, the CG will still be monitoring CH16. Is this likely to continue longterm though if DSC becomes commonplace? Since I understand this is now a drawback when using non-DSC because boats might no longer be listening?

One of the strengths of DSC handhelds for me though is if they are equiped with GPS, they can transmit your position [NOTE - I know they are not available in the UK yet, but I hold out hope that this might change soon and I would be willing to wait...]. For me, this is a major ace! If I'm in serious trouble, perhaps I might not be able to give my position over the radio, if I even know it absolutely.

One thing I've considered; what about buying a small 406MHz PLB/EPIRB unit instead of a VHF radio? This would give emergency services your rough location. Of course, it's no good for chat or receiving weather forecasts. What do you all think of this option?

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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by Bards » Fri Jan 01, 2010 12:31 pm

Agree 100% with Owen. I think whatever device we have, the aerial on a kayak will still barely be above the water, which when the Earth's curvature is factored in will make line-of-sight a big limitation... Pre-arranged chat channels also cut down a lot on CH16 clutter and is a very good idea - just make sure it's one of the few channels approved for small-vessel chit-chat!

I've not remembered half as much from my course as Owen has 'relayed', so thanks for the reminders Owen ;-)

Bards

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orkfay
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by orkfay » Fri Jan 01, 2010 12:40 pm

Live Data:

During a Ch16 voice Mayday call on my behalf (detailed earlier), on May 10 last year, 2 fishing boats and a ferry RIB responded within minutes. The lifeboat was also called by the CG. 4W Silva used.
We were about 8 mil away from the coast guard aerial on Wideford Hill ie in direct line of sight.

I was out of the water 13 min after call.

Conclusion: Ch16 voice can still be very effective

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MikeB
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by MikeB » Fri Jan 01, 2010 2:56 pm

My understanding is that while there's no longer a requirement to monitor 16, anyone with a VHF will have it tuned there anyway, so IF they can receive a signal, they will hear it. And the Coastguard monitor 16 anyway.

Owen's summed up the problem of transmission range nicely but it does also point towards having as much transmit power as possible - there are sets with 6 wts, and as that represents a 20% increase over a 5 wt set, that's good in my book.

The other factor is the overall efficiency of the set and aerial, and while I know nothing at all about the technicalities of VHF radio, I do know that there are good sets and less good ones. My current Icom seems significantly better than my old Garmin. I recall Douglas commenting somewhere that he had practical experience of some sets receiving and transmitting (in marginal conditions) better than others. Then there's the little question of battery life to consider too.

I've often called up passing Calmac ferries to get an updated forecast if I can't get the Coastguard and usually get a response. That said, there's another factor - your accent! Some years ago a trawler in the Sound fo Sleet seemingly ignored my call but responded instantly to a call from a pal who had a much more pronounced Scottish accent than I do!
riph72 wrote: Incidentally, does anyone use a fixed VHF radio in kayaks, or is it a complete no-no?
Not that I've ever heard of or seen - you'd need a battery (easy) and a large aerial (not so easy) and somewhere to mount the relatively large set. Other than that - - -


Mike.

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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by Owen » Fri Jan 01, 2010 3:15 pm

riph72 wrote: Typically, what is the power difference, and hence the range difference [i see you've answered part of this - 5-6Km for handheld]?

I guess that boats/ships are more likely to pick up a DSC emergency call because they don't have to monitor CH16 anymore, although as you point out, the CG will still be monitoring CH16. Is this likely to continue longterm though if DSC becomes commonplace? Since I understand this is now a drawback when using non-DSC because boats might no longer be listening?

One thing I've considered; what about buying a small 406MHz PLB/EPIRB unit instead of a VHF radio? This would give emergency services your rough location. Of course, it's no good for chat or receiving weather forecasts. What do you all think of this option?
The power difference: hand held = 5w some are 6w. Fixed sets = 25w. Range is very dependant on aerial position, generally the higher the better which is why a kayaker with a hand held sitting on the sea surface isn't so good.

The CG are still monitoring ch16 and will continue to do so. Boats/ships should also still be listerning it to ch16, but maybe not with someone sitting by the radio with headphones on.

The cost of EPIRB's is coming down all the time but they are still quite expensive. I don't have one and only know one person who does; he paddled the whole length of Norway last year which is why he had one. There are quite a few folk who use this site who do have then though. The ones with built in GPS are very good I believe. Their main dissadvantage is that they don't give two way communication. You can't tell them what's wrong, they can't tell you their coming. It really depends where you are going to be paddling, if it's really remote then they will be the best option.

riph72
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by riph72 » Fri Jan 01, 2010 3:49 pm

MikeB wrote:My understanding is that while there's no longer a requirement to monitor 16, anyone with a VHF will have it tuned there anyway, so IF they can receive a signal, they will hear it.

Owen's summed up the problem of transmission range nicely but it does also point towards having as much transmit power as possible - there are sets with 6 wts, and as that represents a 20% increase over a 5 wt set, that's good in my book.
That's a very good point you make there. Radios are still likely to be tuned to CH16, even if they aren't legally required to monitor it.

I do like the idea (with DSC) though that the radio will "blink" if it receives a distress call, so even if the recipient is monitoring CH16 but misses the initial distress call, they will still get notification, eventually... i.e. when they look at their radio.

20% increase, a single watt sounds much more significant when you put it like that!!

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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by riph72 » Fri Jan 01, 2010 3:55 pm

Owen wrote:The power difference: hand held = 5w some are 6w. Fixed sets = 25w. Range is very dependant on aerial position, generally the higher the better which is why a kayaker with a hand held sitting on the sea surface isn't so good.

The CG are still monitoring ch16 and will continue to do so. Boats/ships should also still be listerning it to ch16, but maybe not with someone sitting by the radio with headphones on.

The cost of EPIRB's is coming down all the time but they are still quite expensive. I don't have one and only know one person who does; he paddled the whole length of Norway last year which is why he had one. There are quite a few folk who use this site who do have then though. The ones with built in GPS are very good I believe. Their main dissadvantage is that they don't give two way communication. You can't tell them what's wrong, they can't tell you their coming. It really depends where you are going to be paddling, if it's really remote then they will be the best option.
That's a big difference in power, and therefore range. I see your point then.

Re: EPIRBs, there are some McMurdo Fast Find models available for the £200 mark. I would consider that if it were instead of a radio, but not as well as. I guessed 2-way comms was the big problem with these units though.

How confident can we be that the CG will continue monitoring CH16 in the future? I'd hate to buy a non-DSC unit, then in a few years the CG stop monitoring CH16... now where's my crystal ball...

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MikeB
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by MikeB » Fri Jan 01, 2010 4:18 pm

riph72 wrote:
How confident can we be that the CG will continue monitoring CH16 in the future? I'd hate to buy a non-DSC unit, then in a few years the CG stop monitoring CH16... now where's my crystal ball...
Who knows? We have some Coasties "here" so perhaps they can comment but I do know that the Coasties are aware of "us" being more or less constrained to non-DSC sets and of course there must be thousands of small boats who don't fall into the catchment requiring them to have DSC under the SOLAS regs applicable to larger craft.

While I was looking for Douglas' comment about the differing efficiencies of various radios, I came across old (2004/5) discussions about the move to DSC and various people worrying about the loss of monitoring on 16 way back then.

Which of course hasn't happened.

Mike.

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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by riph72 » Fri Jan 01, 2010 8:05 pm

Changing the topic slightly... how much value should I place in getting a floating model? The Standard Horizon 280E only weighs 310grams, so it's not likely to drag me to the bottom if tied to a BA?!

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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by riph72 » Fri Jan 01, 2010 9:28 pm

carpyken wrote:Although I would definately recommend doing the course as it really is so very worth while (its only a day) - it gets you familiar with your set and with communicating to the CG as well as other users. But if you were to just have one to use in an emergency - and you used it in an emergency without you user licence - you would not be prosecuted for doing so.
Due to the sheer cost of doing the course, and because it is biased towards DSC radios (which I seem unlikely to buy), I'd strongly consider just ignoring the license side of things, buying the RYA VHF Handbook for self-study, and just take my chances if I ever had to use it in a real emergency.

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carpyken
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by carpyken » Fri Jan 01, 2010 9:33 pm

riph72 wrote:Changing the topic slightly... how much value should I place in getting a floating model? The Standard Horizon 280E only weighs 310grams, so it's not likely to drag me to the bottom if tied to a BA?!
Its not about the radio dragging you to the bottom mate, more to do with if you drop it over the side when not tethered to yourself.

ken
Last edited by carpyken on Fri Jan 01, 2010 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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carpyken
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by carpyken » Fri Jan 01, 2010 9:40 pm

riph72 wrote:
carpyken wrote:Although I would definately recommend doing the course as it really is so very worth while (its only a day) - it gets you familiar with your set and with communicating to the CG as well as other users. But if you were to just have one to use in an emergency - and you used it in an emergency without you user licence - you would not be prosecuted for doing so.
Due to the sheer cost of doing the course, and because it is biased towards DSC radios (which I seem unlikely to buy), I'd strongly consider just ignoring the license side of things, buying the RYA VHF Handbook for self-study, and just take my chances if I ever had to use it in a real emergency.
Up to you, but I really cannot condone simply 'ignoring the license side of things', its one day of your life and a few quid, nothing really compared to the big picture of things. If you had to use it in a real emergency who really cares about protocol so yes it would still get you out of trouble. But as for the course, its good practice to get to use a set among other people, I assure you its not all about DSC.

If we had that attitude about all our rescue and safety procedures it would be a very sad day indeed.

Ken

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MikeB
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by MikeB » Fri Jan 01, 2010 9:43 pm

The Law requires you to hold a licence to operate a marine VHF. Whether or not you would ever find yourself being prosecuted for not holding a licence is another matter.

Mike.

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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by GrahamKing » Fri Jan 01, 2010 9:48 pm

I think there are some significant advantages to DSC for paddlers, if and when it becomes officially available for handhelds in EU waters:
  1. Simplicity of making a DSC distress call: All it takes is a couple of button presses, then you just leave the set to keep trying automatically while you concentrate on urgent matters like keeping your head above water (you should, of course, follow up with a mayday voice transmission, but it's easy to envisage circumstances where that might not be so easy);
  2. Intelligibility: It's true that the signal range is no greater than for voice, but the information in the digital signal is not affected so badly by conditions (and not at all by water/wind in the microphone);
  3. Attention grabbing: Whilst it is true that most stations continue to monitor ch16, there's an awful lot of traffic there. Your mayday might just get ignored in the background chatter. If a DSC set receives a DSC distress alert, it makes sure that everyone in earshot notices! (This point is also handy for non-distress working: if you make a routine ship-to-ship call to another paddler's DSC set, it will let him know that the call is for him).
  4. Information automatically conveyed: includes your set's identity, which the Coastguard can correlate with your particulars. If your set has GPS, your distress alert automatically transmits your coordinates.
It is also possible to send your GPS co-ords to other stations in a routine call. If sending to HM Coastguard, they show up in the CG's VHF log (but only to a precision of 1 minute of lat/long). If sending to another paddler, his GPS can probably give distance and bearing to you.

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Douglas Wilcox
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Fri Jan 01, 2010 11:28 pm

I have a GPS enabled EPIRB, I can't see me every bothering to upgrade from my non DSC handheld VHF to a DSC handheld.

Douglas

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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by GrahamKing » Sat Jan 02, 2010 12:04 am

Douglas Wilcox wrote:I have a GPS enabled EPIRB, I can't see me every bothering to upgrade from my non DSC handheld VHF to a DSC handheld.
Fair enough. The EPIRB has most of the advantages of DSC VHF and, significantly, it gets rid of the line-of-sight range limitation. But if I were in the market for a new VHF, and DSC were available, I'd go for it.

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Douglas Wilcox
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:17 am

That's a very good point Graham, my old Icom is still working well but if it ever broke?

I was talking to one of our local coastguards about reasons for the delay in introducing DSC handhelds to the UK. He reckons it is government policy to instead encourage EPIRB uptake in case people think a DSC handheld is an effective and dependable distress system.
"A 406 MHz beacon is the simplest means of providing a way to alert Rescue Authorities ashore."
There are huge areas of the west of Scotland where a handheld VHF on the water can't even receive coastguard broadcasts, never mind successfully transmit.

Douglas

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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by John N » Sat Jan 02, 2010 11:09 am

After a long and drawn out discussion with OFCOM invoving my MP and others (documented on two threads on this forum) I was lead to believe that the reason we do not of have DSC handhelds in the UK (or EU) is because various authorities have yet to agree a standard specification for the devices. The US has access to these because it 'broke ranks' and issued a stand alone specification to the benefit of all users and manufacturers. I suspect when the EU finally draft something and OFCOM expand on it, our spec. will be almost identical to the current US one. I'm not expecting anything to happen soon so I bought a conventional radio (ENTEL HT644) though I've yet to use it.
None of this should distract from Douglas' comments that an EPIRB might be more useful in many of the area's he enjoys and so eloquently describes and illustrates on these pages but for many of the rest of us a DSC is, in my opinion, the best bet. I just hope OFCOM / EU get it sorted out reasonably quickly.

http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/foru ... =4&t=48170 & http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/foru ... =4&t=48465 for those interested.

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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by Wenley » Mon Jan 04, 2010 11:44 pm

Hi John,

New EU specifications should come after the last ITU recommendations as recently, the ITU-R Working Party 5B completed and the Study Group 5 approved an update to the DSC technical standard that concerns handheld VHFs.

The Recommendations asks for VHF DSC Class H - now named as a subset of class D- radios to include an integral Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) capability, to ensure that distress calls to Search and Rescue (SAR) forces and SOLAS vessels include accurate location information. The inclusion of accurate location information with distress calls should be vital to the rapid rescue of persons in distress, and should add to the efficiency of SOLAS GMDSS vessel responses over current voice distress calls on VHF Channel 16, reducing voice communications associated with the distress incidents.

The reason behind this seem to be and IMO supported this, that since handheld DSC radios could be moved from vessel to vessel, consideration should be given to the issuance of MMSIs to indicate that it is a handheld device. This would help also to identify clearly each terminal as granting a sole MMSI number for ship does not help to single out which terminal was used on deck, liferafts, or perhaps in an altogether different ship.

Another reason is that DSC has not a widespread use as mobile telephones and satellite systems have supplanted DSC for commercial use, and its use on handhelds will perhaps be the future of DSC.

On the matter of MMSI numbering for handhelds, a Joint Group of IMO/ITU experts on maritime radiocommunications drafted a revision of Recommendation ITU-R M.585-4 (IMO/ITU
EG 5/3/3) with considerations of a new MMSI numbering sistem for handhelds, which was approved by Study Group 5 at its meeting on 29 May 2009, taking into account the large amount handheld portable VHF’s with DSC and GNSS which may appear in throughout the world in the coming years.

Perhaps if you approach OFCOM again with this they may give you an update...
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Re: VHF Radio advice?

Post by riph72 » Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:44 pm

guy wrote:I bought this

<SNIP>

Applied via offcom web site for a dsc handheld license - (Thats the radio license not the operator license)
And I got my mmsi number no problem.

the main drawback is that it only displays position as lat and lon
How are you getting on with this? Have you had any problems with the fact it's sourced from outside the UK?

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