VHF Radio Common Questions & Answers

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1. I don't use the radio very often, do I have to have a licence?

Yes. It is a legal requirement and there are heavy penalties for failing to ensure that both you and your vessel (canoe, kayak, clinker, speedboat, yacht, cruiser, ship etc) are properly licenced.


In addition, everyone using the radio must be trained to use the same practices and procedures for this vital safety system to work effectively.


It is a criminal offence not to have a proper licence and the OfCom Enforcement Team can issue on-the-spot fines. The maximum penalty is £5,000 and/or a six-month prison sentence. The offender may also be required to forfeit any radio equipment in their possession.

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2. Should I have some pre-course knowledge before going on the VHF Radio course?

From 1st Jan 2014 you should undertake three hours of pre-course knowledge / reading. We do recommend that you try to learn the phonetic alphabet before the course, and perhaps also some basic distress-call procedures.


We suggest that you read our Pre Course Information Guide, available from the main VHF Radio Licence Page.

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3. Is there a minimum age for the RYA/MCA VHF Radio Licence Course?

Anybody taking the course under the age of 16 will obtain a Certificate of Competence if they pass the course successfully. On their 16th birthday they can apply to receive their Authority-to-Operate Licence.

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4. Who is the VHF Radio Licence Course Aimed At / Popular With?


Individual yachtsman / power-boaters, Husbands and Wives, families, as well as groups working commercially like fisherman, windfarm-operatives, Oil and Gas workers as well as local authorities and other corporate groups.

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5. I have a pre-1999 restricted VHF radio certificate. Can I upgrade it to include Digital Selective Calling (DSC)?

Yes, you can upgrade the licence. You must present the restricted licence on the day of the course. We recommend that you take the full course regardless, but the fee is just £49.00 for this service, on presentation of an existing non-DSC or pre-1999 licence.

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6. Does ScotSail® run private courses for a small groups, couples or organisations?

Yes. We will run a group course for a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 18 persons. This can only take place at our premises, as it is not legal to operate VHF Radio Training Equipment at any other location other than that which is specified in our OfCom Coastal Radio Station (Training) Licence.


In addition, all the resources and facilities to deliver the courses are highly integrated into our modern training centre.

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7. Can I just take a test without going on the full 1-Day VHF radio course?

Yes. The RYA will permit persons who already have the knowledge to take the examination without any class or online tuition. It’s a 30-minute exam paper and practical assessment, and the cost for examination only, set nationally by the RYA, is £60.00 + ScotSail® £25.00 Centre Fee.


There will be no tuition given and you will have one attempt to pass a 30-minute written exam paper, and a practical assessment on using the VHF DSC Class D Radio Equipment.

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8. If I pass the course, can I allow my crew on the boat to use the VHF radio?


Yes. When you have passed the course and received your licence you may ask a member of crew to use VHF radio equipment under your direct supervision and guidance, but you (or the Master of the Vessel) will be held legally responsible for their conduct.

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9. I have purchased a second-hand radio / boat with DSC. Can I Legally Use It?

Any radio equipment must be Type Approved - beware second-hand equipment or radios bought from online auction sites or jumble-sales. In addition, equipment from the USA is completely different from European radio - it will not work properly, and is illegal for use in Europe.


Every DSC radio has a unique MMSI number, issued to you by OfCom. This cannot be deleted manually once entered, and a qualified electronic-engineer (usually the Original Equipment Manufacturer) must erase the units memory. You must then apply to OfCom for a new Ships Radio Licence (different to the Operators Licence), with a Call-Sign and MMSI Number, which you can input manually into the radio. You can do this for online for FREE by Clicking Here >

With New VHF DSC Radio Equipment Available From £99.00, it may be more cost-effective to buy new rather than buy second-hand also pay to have it sent back to the manufacturer for resetting.

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10. I have a hand-held VHF Radio - what type of licence do I need?

Hand-held VHF Radio Equipment is covered under a Ships Radio Licence, when you apply for it. It can only be used as part of that vessel i.e. as an auxiliary or for crew or tender operations.


If you want to take your hand-held VHF Radio to other vessels or locations you must apply for a Ships Portable Licence. This will be licenced to you as an individual, and an International Call-Sign issued.   This is in addition to your VHF Radio Operators Licence.

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11. I’m going to use my radio in the European inland water ways. Do I need Automatic Transmitter Identification System ( ATIS) activated on my equipment?

Yes. You must upgrade or activate your set to transmit ATIS, and apply for an ATIS number by varying your existing OfCom Licence. You must not use ATIS in UK Territorial Waters. For more info Click Here >

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12. I have purchased a new EPIRB (Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon) - How Do I Register It In The U.K.?

You must register it on the EPIRB Registry with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in Falmouth. To register online Click Here >

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13. I want to buy a VHF Fixed or Handheld VHF Radio, Can You Suggest Where To Purchase This Equipment?


There are a number of different ways to acquire good-quality VHF Radio - you do not have to spend a fortune for leisure use VHF Radio.


Online retailers and mail-order chandlers tend to offer better value overall than small local chandlers - but we recommend purchasing from a marine-orientated retailer, and not an electronics shop that may know nothing about the special requirements of this equipment.


We will happily help you familiarise yourself with any new fixed or hand-held radio equipment you have bought, if you want to bring it in to your VHF Radio Course. Click Here to View Available VHF Radios for Sale Online >

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14. Can I Use VHF Radio Equipment Straight Away After Passing The Course?

Yes. We can provide you with an immediate RYA/MCA Temporary Pass Certificate, free-of-charge, until such time as your licence arrives by Royal Mail, directly from the RYA Certification Department in Southampton.

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15.How Long Does It Take For My Licence To Arrive?

Up to 21 Days, but usually this is much sooner - sometimes 7-10 days. There are Fast-Track Options Available, for an additional fee. Please Contact Us for more information.

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16. Are There Any Additional Costs or On-Going Annual Fees?

There are no on-going costs or fees associated with your VHF Radio Operators Licence. There is a £60.00 Fee Payable Direct to the RYA upon course-completion, in addition to the ScotSail® Course Fee, and you will also need to supply a recent passport-sized photograph. The £60.00 RYA Fee can be paid by cheque or by credit/debit card on the day, direct to the RYA.

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