What is a callsign?
All VHF radio transmissions in New Zealand are legally required to be individually identifiable, and the best way to do this is by getting yourself 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! There is no other requirement to licence recreational boats in New Zealand.
Getting yourself a new callsign
You’ve got the boat, now you need the callsign to go with it. It’s easy – just go to Coastguard Boating Education and fill out your details, and for $50* a unique callsign is yours for life. If you ever need to update your contact details on your callsign record you can do this on the Boating Education website too. If you have an AIS (Automated Identification System) you’ll need a MMSI number – contact Coastguard Boating Education and they can help you with this.
*From 1 July 2019 the cost for a callsign increased from $45 to $50 to cover administration costs.
Wait a minute – there’s one more step before you jump on the VHF!
In New Zealand all users of Marine VHF radios are legally required to hold a Maritime VHF Operator Certificate, unless you're using the radio in an emergency or distress situation. So if you want to log a trip report with Coastguard or communicate with your fellow boaties on the local ship-to-ship radio channel, you need to get yourself a VHF Operator Certificate - there are online or classroom courses around the country.
Coastguard Members get 15% off the VHF Operator Certificate, so if you’re not already a Member join up now to get your discount!
What if my boat has an existing callsign?
It’s recommended that the callsign stays with the boat and is transferred to the new owner. If the vessel is fitted with either an AIS (Automated Identification System) or DSC (Digital Selective Calling) it also makes the process much easier as there’s no need to reprogram any of the equipment.
You’ll need to get the written consent of the old owner to transfer the 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 you can’t get the consent of the previous owner then just get yourself a new callsign – it’s $50 to either transfer the ownership details or get a new callsign.
For more information on Ship Licences for commercial vessels, vessels travelling overseas, and MSSI numbers, check out the info on the Coastguard Boating Education website.
I want to update the details against my callsign
That's easy - go to the Boating Education website and fill in the online form with your updated details.
Changing callsign ownership
Updating your callsign details
VHF operators certificate
Maritime restricted radio operator certificate
Get a callsign
Get your callsign today - it's the best way to identify your boat. For just $50 it's yours for life.
Boatie's Best Mate.
Get a Coastguard membership today for peace of mind when you’re out boating.