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Do you use your boat’s VHF radio?

Then you’re legally required to have an unique identifier such as a callsign, and a VHF Operator’s certificate!

All VHF radio transmissions in New Zealand are legally required to be individually identifiable, and the best way to do this is with a callsign. If you need to contact Coastguard on your VHF to log a trip report or because you need our help, a callsign is the best way to for us to easily identify you and your boat. When you get a callsign your contact and boat details are held on the National Database for search and rescue purposes – it’s much easier to find your boat out on the water if we know exactly what we’re looking for!

Getting yourself a callsign

A callsign only costs $60 and it’s yours for life. Apply for one in a few minutes online at the Boating Education website or give them a call on 0800 40 80 90.

*From 27 Feb 2023 the cost for a callsign increased from $50 to $60 to cover administration costs.

Updating your details against your callsign

If you've changed your address, purchased a new boat and wish to use your existing callsign, or made a significant change to your current vessel (e.g., name or colour), you can update these details on the Boating Education website or give them a call on 0800 40 80 90.

But wait – you’ve got your VHF Operator’s Certificate, right?

Unless you’re using it in an emergency or distress situation, all users of Marine VHF radios in New Zealand are legally required to hold a Marine VHF Operators Qualification. So if you log your trip reports with Coastguard and communicate with your fellow boaties on the local ship to ship radio channel, you need to get yourself a VHF Operator Certificate to do it legally. There are online, home study or classroom courses around the country, and Coastguard Members get 15% off the VHF Operators Certificate. If you’re not already a member, sign up now to get your discount!

What if my boat has an existing callsign?

If the previous owner of the boat wants to keep the callsign from the boat you’ve just purchased, you’ll need to get yourself a new one (see the info above).

If they don’t want to keep the callsign it can be transferred to you, but you’ll need to get the written consent of the old owner to do so - see the Boating Education website for how to do a change of callsign ownership.

If you can’t get the consent of the previous owner then just get yourself a new callsign – transferring the ownership details or getting a new callsign is the same price.

For more information on ship licences for commercial vessels, vessels travelling overseas, and MMSI numbers, go to the Boating Education website.

Maritime certification

Coastguard Boating Education also issues the Maritime Restricted Radio Operator Certificate (necessary if you are using a SSB radio) and the Maritime Short-Range Operator Certificate – a requirement for operating a VHF radio in Europe and prerequisite for the RYA International Certificate of Competence (ICC). View all of the Boating Education Certificates and Courses

Boatie's Best Mate.

Get a Coastguard membership today for peace of mind when you’re out boating.