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Marine VHF Radio Callsigns

Marine VHF radio callsigns are issued for vessels operating within New Zealand waters only.

Some countries require a vessel to have an individual Ships Radio Licence (this is a Station licence, NOT an operator's certificate which is mandatory everywhere). If a New Zealand registered vessel is travelling overseas it is wise to obtain this Ships Radio Licence to avoid later complications with foreign administrations. 

Update existing callsign

New callsign application

*Please note if you are applying for a Callsign for your Single Side Band Radio (SSB) you will need to contact us directly (via phone or email), please do not complete an online application.

Important message to all owners and users of VHF radios

All users of Marine VHF Radios are required to hold a minimum of a Maritime VHF Radio Operator Certificate (an exception is made for radio use only in emergency or distress situations). 

All radio transmissions are required to be "individually identifiable". Countries throughout the world have adopted the marine VHF call sign system as being the best option available.

Marine VHF callsigns are held on a national database and are used solely for Search and Rescue purposes.

There is a one-off charge of $45.

Should any of your personal details change or if you change vessels you must advise us - 0800 408090.

When you sell your vessel you have two options:

  1. You can keep the callsign; in which case you must inform the new owner that you are keeping the call sign and that he/she must obtain a NEW callsign.


  1. You can let the callsign stay with the vessel. Either way you MUST advise Coastguard Boating Education.

Ship Licences

Commercial vessels:
Requirements for radio operators on commercial vessels will vary depending on the radio equipment installed, number of passengers and requirements of current safety legislation. Owners should approach Maritime New Zealand (Ph: 0508 22 55 22) for further advice.

Vessels travelling overseas:

  • In most cases a standard GURL (General Users Radio Licence) or ships call sign is all that is required for vessels travelling overseas. In some cases when engaged in international voyaging a vessel owner may have difficulty in convincing a foreign port authority that the Radio Communications Regulations (General User Radio Licence for Maritime purposes) Notice 2007 and a callsign record in SMART constitutes a valid radio licence, hence vessel owners may choose to maintain an individual licence for their vessel (and pay an annual fee) so that they can present a copy of the radio licence to officials in foreign ports. To obtain an application form, contact us.

  • A Maritime Ship (radio) Licence consists of a licence number, a call sign number, an MMSI number and depending on the vessel type, a radio telex number. The Maritime Ship Licence is an individual radio licence granted to the owner of the vessel.

    1. Note:

      • Commercial and New Zealand registered vessels seeking special callsigns or four-letter callsigns (e.g. ZMAB) should contact Radio Spectrum Management on 0508 776436 or email info@rsm.govt.nz. 
      • New Zealand callsigns can only be issued to New Zealand vessels. If the vessel is registered overseas then you must contact the licensing authority of that country to obtain a callsign. 
      • To operate a MF/HF (SSB) radio, a Maritime Radio Restricted Operator Certificate (MRROC) is the minimum requirement.
      • Full details are recorded in the Register of Radio Frequencies and made available for public inspection. This includes the name and address of the licence holder. Clients have the right to request that their residential address be withheld from public access. Requests must be made in writing to the Registrar of Radio Frequencies, Private Bag 92061, Auckland.

      The current annual licence fee is $350* for recreational and commercial vessels. The fee must be paid in advance before the licence is issued.  Once payment has been validated the licence is automatically granted and an email sent to the address supplied. Coastguard Boating Education has an additional $35 fee for administering the licence application. Both payments will be deducted from the credit card details you have supplied. Only Visa or Mastercard credit cards will be accepted as a form of payment.

      *The annual licence fee refers to the billing month when you are first registered as a client of Radio Spectrum Management.

      To register an EPIRB visit www.beacons.org.nz


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