This page contains information on the main CEPT documents on maritime communications and some maritime services such as on the usage of Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB), UHF frequencies authorised in CEPT countries for Maritime Communications, and contact points for the verification of maritime radio operator’s certificates.

1 History
The use of radio communications, for maritime purposes, has been an important part of ship safety and port operations, for many years. Some of the history even dates back to the early part of the 20th century. The first set of international regulations, drawn up in 1906, mainly concerned maritime radiotelegraphy. The 1906 Radiotelegraph Convention gathered 30 maritime States on 3 November 1906 in Berlin for the first International Radiotelegraph Conference, and adopted the “International Radiotelegraph Convention” establishing the principle of compulsory intercommunication between vessels at sea and in-land stations.

Here is some History on maritime radio communications.

2 Main CEPT documents on maritime communications

  • ERC Decision (99)01 on the harmonised examination syllabifor the General Operator’s Certificate (GOC) and the Restricted Operator’s Certificate (ROC) (amended in 2015)
  • ECC Recommendation (10)03 on harmonised CEPT examination procedures for the long range certificate (LRC) for non-SOLAS vessels 
  • ERC Recommendation 31-06 on the harmonised content of certificates issued by administrations for the GOC and ROC to facilitate the mutual recognition of these certificates 
  • ERC Recommendation 31-04 on the harmonised CEPT examination procedures for the short range certificate (SRC) for non-SOLAS vessels (including a guidance document on the implementation)
  • ECC Decision (22)02 on Regulation to operate Autonomous Maritime Radio Devices (AMRD) in CEPT.  The background to this ECC Decision was set out in a Newsletter published in May 2022.

In 2016, the ERC Decision of 1 June 1999 on the Universal Shipborne Automatic Identification System (AIS) channels in the maritime VHF band was reviewed and it was concluded that this Decision (ERC Decision (99)17) was suitable for withdrawal and no longer needed. ERC Decision (99)17 supported the implementation of these common AIS channels throughout the CEPT following the WRC-97, and it is considered that this implementation process has been completed. Report ITU-R M.2231-1 describes in full the use of Appendix 18 to the ITU Radio Regulations for the maritime mobile service. Hence, an ERC Decision is not needed any longer.

3 National information on maritime communications

  • The usage of Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), please click here
  • Requirements for usage of Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB), please click here
  • UHF frequencies authorised in CEPT countries for Maritime Communications, please click here
  • Contact points for the verification of maritime radio operator’s certificates, please click here  
  • The Swiss regulator BAKOM has collected all information about maritime services in one document (January 2017 - in German)


4 ECC/FM 58 Maritime Group of WG FM

Inside of the ECC, maritime communication aspects are discussed in the FM 58 - Maritime Group of WG FM.

The current work programme of the FM 58 can be seen here. The work has led to the new draft ECC Decision (19)03 on the harmonised usage of the channels of the Radio Regulations Appendix 18 (transmitting frequencies in the VHF maritime mobile band).

This is necessary because RR Appendix 18 requests amendments to be made by 1 January 2017 and 1 January 2019, while IMO in IMO circular MSC.1-Circ.1460-Rev.2 states that “VHF equipment, without prejudice to the arrangements contained in appendix 18 of the RR, should be updated so that following the first radio survey after 1 January 2024, at the earliest, it meets the arrangements which will be in force by then”. In addition, some regional VHF data exchange systems are supported by Asian and African countries and CEPT needs therefore to clarify the precise VHF channel usage in Europe and a common time schedule of the implementation period.


5 The risk of dangerous traffic situations occurring due to unavailability of some VHF voice channels

In 2021 some CEPT authorities and marine pilots noted that there is still equipment in use with a pre-set limitation of available VHF channels which is not in compliance with IMO circular MSC.1/Circ.1460/Rev.2 as well as by CEPT ECC Decision (19)03 (https://docdb.cept.org/download/907b31ea-4d89/ECCDec1903.pdf).

The ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) decided to change the usage of VHF channels in Appendix 18 of the Radio Regulations (RR). Some of the channels which had been in use for analogue voice communication have been designated for the new VHF Data Exchange System (VDES). However, a number of national administrations have not been able to free up these channels throughout the world before the envisaged date of 1 January 2017. Therefore in 2018 IMO agreed to implement this change on 1 January 2024.

Despite the fact that this has been communicated widely, some VHF radio equipment for voice communication is not in compliance with the earlier decisions.

It has been reported that in Dutch waters vessels were not able to contact the relevant Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) such as the Port of Rotterdam and the Schelde area, mainly by using the VHF Channels 24, 25, 26 and 84, 85 and 86, which should remain usable for analogue voice communication until the 31st of December 2023.

This information is addressed to the maritime community, including administrations, ship owners and seafarers to be aware of this issue and to check whether their VHF equipment on board is in conformity with the above indicated regulations.


Updated: 08 February 2023, 10:24