VHF Marine Radio Channels
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In general, there are only a few channels to remember, depending on what you're doing.
Channel 16 is for Distress, Safety, and can be used for Calling
Channel 11 is the USCG Vessel Traffic Service (VTSNY) initial call channel for New York. Channels 12 and 14 are also used.
Note that vessels using VTSNY are not required to also listen on 16. The USCG has an extensive system of cameras and radios around the lower and upper Bays, around Staten Island, and the southern ends of the East and Hudson Rivers. In New York Harbor or other harbors with Vessel Traffic Service, if you are in distress call Vessel Traffic Service.
If you are around blind turns or piers (e.g., Manhattan side of the Hudson, Arthur Kill, Governor's Island), monitoring this channel can help give you warning of big vessel's entry and exit. Particularly for groups, you can also call the USCG and let them know to inform large vessels of your presence.
Channels 13 and 67. "Bridge-to-bridge" Power limited, useful for large vessels maneuvering around each other. Kayak applicability is that most staffed bridges or locks monitor these freqs.
Channels 68 69, 71, 72 - non commercial. Kayak-to-kayak or kayak-to-shore (except 72 is ship-to-ship only). Also, you can kick to these channels after making initial contact on 16.
01A - Port Operations and Commercial. VTS in selected areas.
05A - Port Operations. VTS in Seattle
06 - Intership Safety
07A - Commercial
08 - Commercial (Intership only)
09 - Boater Calling. Commercial and Non-Commercial.
10 - Commercial
11 - Commercial. VTS in selected areas.
12 - Port Operations. VTS in selected areas.
13 - Intership Navigation Safety (Bridge-to-bridge). Ships>20m length maintain a listening watch on this channel in US waters.
14 - Port Operations. VTS in selected areas.
15 - Environmental (Receive only). Used by Class C EPIRBs.
16 - International Distress, Safety and Calling.
Ships required to carry radio, USCG, and most coast stations maintain a listening watch on this channel.
17 - State Control
18A - Commercial
20 - Port Operations (duplex)
20A - Port Operations
21A - U.S. Government only
22A - Coast Guard Liaison and Maritime Safety Information Broadcasts.
Broadcasts announced on channel 16.
23A - U.S. Government only
24 - Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
25 - Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
26 - Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
27 - Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
28 - Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
63A - Port Operations and Commercial. VTS in selected areas.
65A - Port Operations
66A - Port Operations
67 - Commercial. Used for Bridge-to- bridge communications in lower Mississippi River. Intership only.
68 - Non-Commercial
69 - Non-Commercial
70 - Digital Selective Calling (voice communications not allowed)
71 - Non-Commercial
72 - Non-Commercial (Intership only)
73 - Port Operations
74 - Port Operations
77 - Port Operations (Intership only)
78A - Non-Commercial
79A - Commercial
80A - Commercial
81A - U.S. Government only - Environmental protection operations.
82A - U.S. Government only
83A - U.S. Government only
84 - Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
85 - Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
86 - Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
87 - Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
88 - Public Correspondence in selected areas only.
88A Commercial, Intership only.
Note that the letter "A" indicates simplex use of an international duplex channel, and that operations are different than international operations on that channel. Some
VHF transceivers are equipped with an "International - U.S." switch for that purpose. "A" channels are generally only used in the United States, and use is normally not recognized or allowed outside the U.S.
Boaters should normally use channels listed as Non-Commercial. Channel 16 is used for calling other stations or for distress alerting. Channel 13 should be used to contact a ship when there is danger of collision. All ships of length 20m or greater are required to guard VHF channel 13, in addition to VHF channel 16, when operating within U.S. territorial waters. Users may be fined by the FCC for improper use of these channels.