U.S. VHF Marine Radio Channels and Frequencies | Boat Safe | Water Sports, Product Reviews, and Nautical News (2023)

U.S. VHF Marine Radio Channels and Frequencies | Boat Safe | Water Sports, Product Reviews, and Nautical News (1) by Chris Riley Updated on July 14, 2020. In nauticalknowhow

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When you’re out on the water, it’s essential that you’re familiar with VHF marine radio frequencies and channels. The marine industry specifically uses the VHF frequency range for communication. VHF stands for Very High Frequency, and it’s used for ship-to-ship, ship-to-shore, and even ship-to-aircraft two-way communications.

There are plenty of marine channel frequencies, and a few of them are constantly monitored for commercial, private, and coast guard use. There are marine band frequencies dedicated to certain situations, with some VHF weather channels, others specifically for port operations, and others for ship hailing.

The most important VHF channel frequencies are VHF Channel 9 and Channel 16.

Channel 9 is specifically used for the hailing of non-commercial vessels, and can be used for a wide range of important communications. For recreational boaters, it’s one of the most important marine radio frequencies to monitor. It should not be used to hail commercial vessels.

Channel 16 is the International Hailing and Distress Frequency. It’s a special channel that’s used all over the world for the reporting of emergencies and calling for help. It can also be used by the Coast Guard to issue important information and weather warnings. The use of channel 9 (mentioned above) is optional, but keeping tuned to channel 16 is an essential.

It’s essential that all boaters monitor these channels.

There are many other marine band frequencies that are used to communicate non-emergency traffic.

Every vessel operating at sea should have a copy of this marine VHF frequency chart available onboard.

Here is a comprehensive table that displays the most important marine VHF frequencies and VHF channels:

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U.S. VHF Marine Radio Channels and Frequencies
(Important Channels Marked In Red)

Channel Ship Ship UseNumber Transmit Receive 01A 156.050 156.050 Port Operations and Commercial. VTS in selected areas. 05A 156.250 156.250 Port Operations. VTS in Seattle 06 156.300 156.300 Intership Safety 07A 156.350 156.350 Commercial 08 156.400 156.400 Commercial (Intership only) 09 156.450 156.450 Boater Calling. Commercial and Non-Commercial. 10 156.500 156.500 Commercial 11 156.550 156.550 Commercial. VTS in selected areas. 12 156.600 156.600 Port Operations. VTS in selected areas. 13 156.650 156.650 Intership Navigation Safety (Bridge-to-bridge). Ships >20m length maintain a listening watch on this channel in US waters. 14 156.700 156.700 Port Operations. VTS in selected areas. 15 -- 156.750 Environmental (Receive only). Used by Class C EPIRBs. 16 156.800 156.800 International Distress, Safety and Calling. Ships required to carry radio, USCG, and most coast stations maintain a listening watch on this channel. 17 156.850 156.850 State Control 18A 156.900 156.900 Commercial 19A 156.950 156.950 Commercial 20 157.000 161.600 Port Operations (duplex) 20A 157.000 157.000 Port Operations 21A 157.050 157.050 U.S. Government only 22A 157.100 157.100 Coast Guard Liaison and Maritime Safety Information Broadcasts. Broadcasts announced on channel 16. 23A 157.150 157.150 U.S. Government only 24 157.200 161.800 Public Correspondence (Marine Operator) 25 157.250 161.850 Public Correspondence (Marine Operator) 26 157.300 161.900 Public Correspondence (Marine Operator) 27 157.350 161.950 Public Correspondence (Marine Operator) 28 157.400 162.000 Public Correspondence (Marine Operator) 63A 156.175 156.175 Port Operations and Commercial. VTS in selected areas. 65A 156.275 156.275 Port Operations 66A 156.325 156.325 Port Operations 67 156.375 156.375 Commercial. Used for Bridge-to- bridge communications in lower Mississippi River. Intership only. 68 156.425 156.425 Non-Commercial-Working Channel 69 156.475 156.475 Non-Commercial 70 156.525 156.525 Digital Selective Calling (voice communications not allowed) 71 156.575 156.575 Non-Commercial 72 156.625 156.625 Non-Commercial (Intership only) 73 156.675 156.675 Port Operations 74 156.725 156.725 Port Operations 77 156.875 156.875 Port Operations (Intership only) 78A 156.925 156.925 Non-Commercial 79A 156.975 156.975 Commercial 80A 157.025 157.025 Commercial 81A 157.075 157.075 U.S. Government only - Environmental protection operations. 82A 157.125 157.125 U.S. Government only 83A 157.175 157.175 U.S. Government only 84 157.225 161.825 Public Correspondence (Marine Operator) 85 157.275 161.875 Public Correspondence (Marine Operator) 86 157.325 161.925 Public Correspondence (Marine Operator) 87 157.375 161.975 Public Correspondence (Marine Operator) 88 157.425 162.025 Public Correspondence in selected areas only. 88A 157.425 157.425 Commercial, Intership only.

NOAA Weather Radio Frequencies

 WX1 -- 162.550 WX2 -- 162.400 WX3 -- 162.475 WX4 -- 162.425 WX5 -- 162.450 WX6 -- 162.500 WX7 -- 162.525

All of the above marine frequencies are in MHz. Modulation is 16KF3E or 16KG3E.

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 for their working channel. 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.

In Summary:

Always remember to monitor the most important VHF radio frequencies, and be careful not to tie-up the emergency channels with unnecessary dialogue. If you’ve got a problem that isn’t an emergency, make sure that you switch channels to ensure that you aren’t keeping another vessel from calling for help or reporting an emergency situation.

In short: the FCC requires all boaters with VHF radios to monitor either channel 9 or channel 16 when you’re not communicating on another channel. By keeping these channels open, and by monitoring them closely, you can help to save lives.

U.S. VHF Marine Radio Channels and Frequencies | Boat Safe | Water Sports, Product Reviews, and Nautical News (2)

About Chris

Outdoors, I’m in my element, especially in the water. I know the importance of being geared up for anything. I do the deep digital dive, researching gear, boats and knowhow and love keeping my readership at the helm of their passions.

Categories: nauticalknowhow


  • U.S. VHF Marine Radio Channels and Frequencies | Boat Safe | Water Sports, Product Reviews, and Nautical News (3)

    Gregory Philpot on July 20, 2020

    Thank you for breaking this down to make it easy. Sadly, I called Brookville Indiana’s dispatch center and they stated they don’t monitor boater radio frequencies anymore. She suggested I call 911. I told her that is not possible as cell phone reception is very limited to none in many of the areas. 🙁


  • U.S. VHF Marine Radio Channels and Frequencies | Boat Safe | Water Sports, Product Reviews, and Nautical News (5)

    (Video) USS Stark Hit By Iraqi Exocets 17/18 May 1987

    jd on April 19, 2021

    I wonder if they are still using ship to shore phone calls. example 161.800 161.900 and 162.000


  • U.S. VHF Marine Radio Channels and Frequencies | Boat Safe | Water Sports, Product Reviews, and Nautical News (6)

    DeWayne LeeRoy Duff on November 11, 2021

    This is a great resource, thank you so much for posting! I’ve got a VHF radio on the way, working on my ham on the side and have a radio for that, and have another multi-band radio on the way that I can supposedly use for marine VHF, so this was a huge help!!!


  • U.S. VHF Marine Radio Channels and Frequencies | Boat Safe | Water Sports, Product Reviews, and Nautical News (7)

    J K in west Tennessee on October 12, 2022

    I have thought for a long time that there should be a monitored frequency for distress cell phones are not everywhere, and in most cases when you need life-saving help a cell phone can be very disappointing. My knowledge of the Coast Guard sectors is, The Coast Guard has an ability to monitor channel 16 throughout the entire United States and territorial waters. So this would be an excellent channel on a radio to have to get help when you need it. I’m troubled why local law-enforcement an emergency personnel do not monitor this frequency as well much like they did in past days with channel 9 CB radio. I live in a rural area in West Tennessee my next-door neighbor passed away because we could not get help fast enough for her no cell phone was working. And when we could get 911 on a cell phone we ended up on a neighboring counties system and they had to transfer us. It seems like a small handheld radio would be an excellent thing to take when you’re backpacking and you can get help if you need it or climbing mountains or other recreational use. Thing that trouble me is a hand unit my only give you 5 Watts and a-mobile unit is governed to 25 Watts. The next thing is nobody is marketing this type of radio Except for Marine use

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Which VHF radio is best? ›

What is the Best Handheld VHF Marine Radio?
  • #1 Icom IC-M25 Floating Waterproof Handheld VHF Radio.
  • #2 Cobra HH150 Floating Waterproof Handheld VHF Marine Radio.
  • #3 Icom IC-M94DE Floating Waterproof VHF Marine Radio with DSC & AIS Receiver.
  • #4 Cobra HH350 Floating Waterproof Handheld VHF Marine Radio.
6 Jun 2022

Which marine VHF channels can I use? ›

Primary Intership Working Channels: 06, 08, 09, 10, 13, 15, 17, 67, 69, 72, 73, 77 - these are worth knowing so that if another vessel calls you, you can swiftly nominate a working channel from within this group. In practice you should only use channels NOT shared with port operations. These are 06, 08, 72 and 77.

What is VHF channel 14 used for? ›

Port Operations

What is the range of a VHF marine radio? ›

Channels and frequencies

Transmission power ranges between 1 and 25 watts, giving a maximum range of up to about 60 nautical miles (111 km) between aerials mounted on tall ships and hills, and 5 nautical miles (9 km; 6 mi) between aerials mounted on small boats at sea level.

What radios do Navy SEALs use? ›

The AN/PRC-126 radio is used primarily 2-way radio telephone communication among special force team members in the field. AN/PRC-126 Radio is currently used by US Army, USMC, US Navy SEALs, USAF CCT and other special forces.

Do I need a licence for a VHF radio? ›

All marine VHF, MF and HF radios require the user and the vessel to hold a relevant licence. The vessel's licence is like a car tax disc, but it is also the key to obtaining an MMSI number MMSI number, which will uniquely identify your vessel.

What VHF channels can I use without a license? ›

What can I do? Almost all GMRS radios also support FRS frequencies, which can be used without a license. Channels 8-14 on a typical 22 channel consumer radio reserved exclusively for FRS. These channels can be used license-free, but are limited to a half watt of transmit power and will have limited range.

Can you use your phone as a VHF radio? ›

If you are boating very far off shore, a cell phone is no substitute for a VHF radio. The range is not there and the features don't match up.

Can you still get VHF channels? ›

Almost all of the TV stations affected finished transitioning in July 2020.) To receive DTV signals from all stations in the area, your antenna needs to be able to receive both VHF channels (channels 2-13) and UHF channels (channels 14-36). Some antennas only provide good reception of VHF or UHF channels, but not both.

Can anyone use a VHF radio? ›

Most countries require boaters to pass a test before they can use a VHF radio, but not the United States, which accounts for the widespread ignorance of proper VHF protocol on our waters. The point of radio jargon is to avoid ambiguity and to ensure that communications are clearly understood.

What VHF channels should I scan? ›

The most important channels on your VHF radio are 13, 16, 19, 22, and 70. Channel 13 is used by commercial shipping to communicate their actions and confirm passage. Channel 16 (156.8 MHz) VHF-FM is designated by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) as the national distress, safety and calling frequency.

How far will a 50 Watt VHF radio transmit? ›

They assume a 5 watt handheld, 50 watt mobile, 5/8 wave mobile antenna with 6 dB gain and 5/8 wave, 6dB gain omnidirectional base antenna at 50′. Urban Environment – Around 1/2 – 1 mile from handheld to handheld, up to 2 miles mobile to handheld, and up to 5 miles or more, base to mobile, with base antenna at 50′.

Can I use a marine VHF radio on land? ›

Marine VHF radios, whether fixed or handheld, may not be used on land, period. It's the law. Once a VHF radio goes ashore, it cannot be used for marine band transmission (without a Coast Station License).

How far will a 25 Watt VHF radio transmit? ›

VHF marine radios are monitored 24 hours a day by the Cost Guard, and are essential in emergency situations. Boaters often mount radios with the legal limit of 25 watts and, depending on the height of the antenna, can reach communication distances as far as 60 miles or more.

Can VHF go through walls? ›

If you need a radio that will transmit over a long distance, you'll need to opt for a VHF radio. These radios are able to transmit a long distance, in even the remotest of locations. However, this type of signal is not able to penetrate through buildings or other obstacles, so it can only be used in open spaces.

What radio Does the FBI use? ›

Many other frequencies in the 162 - 174 MHz federal band are also used. Frequency use varies by field division. The FBI moved to APCO P25 digital mode. The FBI can also access state police radio and regional mutual Aid systems in many states.

What radios do Army Rangers use? ›

Current Military Walkie-Talkies

They also use a range of devices which are collectively called 117 Foxtrot. The 117 Foxtrot includes Harris Falcon II products like PRC-150 and the AN/PRC-117F.

What radios do prisons use? ›

Can you hear me now? 8 portable radio options for your correctional facility
  • Icom's IC-F1000/F2000 Series. ...
  • RELM Wireless's RP7200 Portable Radio. ...
  • Midland GXT1000VP4 Radio. ...
  • Tait TP9400. ...
  • Vertex VX-820. ...
  • Motorola's SL 7000 Series. ...
  • Kenwood's VHF/UHF/700-800 MHz Digital Transceiver. ...
  • RCA's RDR3500 and 3600.

Does a VHF radio license expire? ›

Once obtained the src vhf photo license does not expire and lasts for life.

How long does a VHF licence last? ›

There is no end date on the 'lifetime' ship radio licence, but Ofcom will revoke the licence unless the licence is either amended or validated at least once every ten years.

What size boat requires a VHF? ›

What is a "Marine VHF Radio"? Although not required in recreational boats under 65.5 feet long, a Very High Frequency (VHF) Marine Radio allows instant communication between your boat and other boats, marinas, bridges, and the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

What radio frequency can civilians use? ›

The Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS) is a private, two-way, short-distance voice communications service for personal or business activities of the general public. It also may be used for voice paging. It is authorized 40 channels between 26.965 MHz and 27.405 MHz.

Will a VHF work without MMSI number? ›

Two things need to happen for a DSC-VHF radio to work properly. First, it has to be connected to a GPS; second, the radio needs to be programmed with an MMSI number. MMSI stands for Maritime Mobile Service Identity and refers to the unique number assigned to a particular boat.

Can you use a VHF radio without a MMSI number? ›

Because modern handheld VHF radios are often DSC-capable, they are able to be programmed with an MMSI number. A marine radio's DSC capability is not able to be used without programming an MMSI into the radio prior to use.

Can radio scanners pick up cell phones? ›

Understanding the difficulty in eavesdropping on a particular cellular phone conversation requires a quick technology lesson. Cellular phones use hundreds of frequencies between the 869 and 894 megahertz band to transmit on, the same band that many police and fire units use. It is easily picked up by scanners.

What are disadvantages VHF? ›

VHF, since it tends to bend with the curvature of the earth more than UHF, is ideal for outdoor applications where distance is the primary user need. However, a big disadvantage of VHF is that it does not work well indoors as it will not penetrate walls or reinforced concrete as well as UHF.

Can you put a marine radio in a car? ›

Yes, you can install a marine amp in your car, truck, or motorcycle! As a matter of fact, they actually offer some great installation options you might not have otherwise!

Do pocket TVS still work? ›

The answer to this question is yes and no. Yes, your analog portable TV can still work if you either get a digital-to-analog converter box or sign up with a subscription service like cable or satellite TV.

Is there an app to find TV signal? ›

Now you can download Antenna Point on your Android smartphone or tablet. No matter what device you have, you can benefit from Antenna Point!

How far will a handheld VHF radio reach? ›

The general rule of thumb, for hand-held VHF radios, is that 1 Watt is approximately 1 nautical mile of range (example: a 5 Watt VHF radio will have an approximate 5 nautical mile range when set to the 5 Watt setting). Most hand-held VHF radios are between 1 Watts and 6 Watts.

How do I get a VHF Licence? ›

The exam. SRC exams consist of a written theory exam and assessment in the practical use of marine VHF radios The exam fee is payable to the RYA. Most candidates are required to complete an RYA SRC course prior to taking the exam, therefore the majority of exams take place at the end of the course.

How far can a handheld VHF radio transmit? ›

So according to our rule-of-thumb, 2 people around 6 feet tall using a 5 watt handheld two-way radio, used on flat ground with no obstacles, will have a maximum range of approximately 6 miles.

Can I listen to VHF online? ›

Install the Online Radio Box application on your smartphone and listen to VHF online as well as to many other radio stations wherever you are! Now, your favorite radio station is in your pocket thanks to our handy app.

Why is my antenna not picking up VHF channels? ›

If you're having trouble receiving one or two channels even though you're close to your local broadcast towers, it may be because your antenna is not designed to pick up VHF frequencies.

Is there a marine radio app? ›

The FREE Uniden Marine app provides, when coupled with a Uniden Marine VHF radio with Bluetooth Text Messaging capability, the ability to use text messaging between Uniden and West Marine radios when offshore, out of range of Cellular or Wi-fi coverage.

How far can a 1000 watt radio transmit? ›

If an ERP of 1000 Watt is used, it is very probable that the signal will reach 20 kilometers, and it will also penetrate eventual obstacles.

How far will a 100 watt ham transmit? ›

A 100 watt radio can transmit up to about 10 miles. However, the distance that a radio can transmit depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of antenna used, the height of the antenna, and the weather conditions.

How far can VHF waves travel? ›

VHF radio waves propagate mainly by line-of-sight, so they are blocked by hills and mountains, although due to refraction they can travel somewhat beyond the visual horizon out to about 160 km (100 miles).

Can VHF radios be tracked? ›

Conclusion – Can Walkie Talkies be traced? A walkie talkie functions both as a transmitter and a receiver. Once the antenna from a transmitter and a receiver communicates through radio waves and translates it into a signal, it can be traceable.

What is the difference between VHF radio and marine radio? ›

A marine VHF radio is different from other VHF radios used for land or air communications. Marine radios are specifically designed for communications on the waterways. They are installed on all large ships and most seagoing small craft, and with slightly different regulation on rivers and lakes.

What is the maximum range for VHF on land? ›

A hand held radio, on the other hand, in ideal conditions can be expected to reach about 15km maximum. Therefore, depending on how far away from shore you wish to travel, determines which VHF radio would be best suited to you. For more information on VHF Radios, please do not hesitate to contact us in store or online.

How far can a 40 watt radio transmit? ›

2-WAY RADIO - The 40 Watt MicroMobile walkie talkie is equipped with 15 High/Low Power GMRS channels and 8 Repeater Channels for increased communication range. 65-MILE RANGE - Longer range communication in open areas with little or no obstruction.

What 2 Way radio has the longest range? ›

What are the Longest Range Walkie Talkies?
  • Midland 50 Channel Waterproof GMRS Two-Way Radio. ...
  • Cobra RX680 2 Watt Rugged Walkie Talkies. ...
  • Uniden SX507-2CKHS Up to 50 Mile Range Two-Way Radio. ...
  • ESynic Rechargeable Walkie Talkies with Earpieces. ...
  • FRS Portable Handheld Two Way Radio.
18 Feb 2022

How far will a 2 watt radio transmit? ›

So, a 2-watt walkie-talkie might broadcast within a range of 1.5 miles; 3 watts = 2 miles; 4 watts = 2.5 miles; 5 watts = 3 miles; and so on. Actual distances may vary widely based on weather, UHF vs. VHF, etc. But these are good, general rules of thumb to go by when shopping for a new radio system.

How far offshore will VHF work? ›

If you are planning an offshore voyage, you need to know VHF radios and cellular telephones are limited in range, usually no more than 15 to 25 miles from shore.

How far will a marine VHF radio transmit? ›

Channels and frequencies

Transmission power ranges between 1 and 25 watts, giving a maximum range of up to about 60 nautical miles (111 km) between aerials mounted on tall ships and hills, and 5 nautical miles (9 km; 6 mi) between aerials mounted on small boats at sea level.

Can radio waves pass through concrete? ›

Radio waves can penetrate nonconducting materials, such as wood, bricks, and concrete, fairly well. They cannot pass through electrical conductors, such as water or metals.

How far can a 25 Watt VHF radio reach? ›

VHF marine radios are monitored 24 hours a day by the Cost Guard, and are essential in emergency situations. Boaters often mount radios with the legal limit of 25 watts and, depending on the height of the antenna, can reach communication distances as far as 60 miles or more.

What should I look for in a VHF marine radio? ›

Three Things To Look For In Handheld VHF Radios
  • Make Sure It's Waterproof… And Floats! ...
  • Screen Must Be Easily Viewable In Daylight… And Battery Should Last. ...
  • Ability To Double As A Search-and-Rescue Tool. A handheld VHF should always be ready to go.
25 Apr 2022

How far will a 1 watt VHF radio transmit? ›

Handheld Radios
Average Range Guidelines *
WattageFlat Open Terrain (miles)Urban Areas (miles)
1 watt (UHF)2 - 3½ - 1¼
2 watts (UHF)3 - 41 - 1½
2 watts (VHF)3 - 5¾ - 1
5 more rows

Can I use my VHF radio on land? ›

Marine VHF radios, whether fixed or handheld, may not be used on land, period. It's the law. Once a VHF radio goes ashore, it cannot be used for marine band transmission (without a Coast Station License).


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