Licensing Requirements

There are three separate Licences required before a VHF radio can be used on board a vessel:

  • one for the set - its 'Type Approval',
  • one for the installation - the 'Ship's Licence',
  • and one for the operator - the Operator's Certificate of Competence.


All transmitting devices installed in UK Registered vessels manufactured before 7th April 2000 must be 'Type Approved', this ensures that they comply with the relevant European and International regulations. In the UK these standards are laid down by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. All the radio equipment carried by Lifeboats will be type approved, (to MPT 1279 standard).

THE SHIP'S Licence:

Once installed in a vessel, a VHF radiotelephone requires a ship's Licence. These can be obtained from the Department of Communication Regulation (COMREG) in Dublin for the ROI or Office of Communications (OFCOM) in the UK. In the UK the ships radio Licence has been issued free for the lifetime of the vessel from October 2006, it will be checked for correct details every 10 years.

There are several types of ship's Licence available.

Ship's (VHF) Licence: In the majority of cases the Licence required will be a Ship's (VHF) Licence which 'authorises the use of two-way communications with other vessels, aircraft and shore stations using specific frequencies within the International Maritime Band'.

Ship portable radio Licence: Handheld VHF radios including those fitted with DSC capabilities, have a special Licence. This Licence enables the operator to use any handheld maritime VHF radio which is not permanently fitted to a vessel. The Licence number will be prefixed with the letter 'T' and will be subject to checks for correct details every 10 years. As no call-sign can be allocated to portable VHF, operators must identify themselves by the name of the vessel they are onboard.

EPIRB Licence: Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons also need a Licence to operate and this is covered by the Ships Radio Licence or the Ships Portable Licence.


Apart from the Type Approval and the Installation Licence, the operator needs a Licence, known as a Radio Operator's 'Certificate of Competence'. There are several different Certificates of Competence available depending upon the type of equipment fitted and the use to which it is put. Only two types are required by Lifeboat crews.

The Short Range Certificate: This is the Licence required to operate VHF equipment, including all VHF DSC equipment on commercial vessels. It has replaced the older 'Restricted Certificate of Competence in Radiotelephone, (VHF only)', (although this Licence is still valid for the use of VHF radiotelephone equipment only).

The Long Range Certificate (LRC): This is the Licence required to operate the MF/HF/VHF equipment, (including the DSC facilities), on any vessel not required to fit GMDSS equipment under the SOLAS agreement. In order to use all of the equipment supplied, radio operators on ALBs require the LRC. Full time Coxswains and Mechanics require the Long Range Certificate as part of their development plan, (for further information see TRG-6, 'The MF/HF Radio Guide').

The RNLI SARROC: This is equivalent to the SRC but with a Search And Rescue component to allow a greater understanding of the required procedures in the event of any SAR service. It will cover the Short Range Certificate syllabus.