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Marine VHF Radio Callsigns

All radio transmissions must be individually identified. Vessels may be issued with either a VHF or a VHF/SSB*callsign. In New Zealand, callsigns begin with the letters ZM followed by another letter and 4 numbers. New Zealand registered vessels heading offshore may be recognized through their ZM callsign.

Maritime VHF radio callsigns are issued for vessels operating within New Zealand Waters only. New Zealand registered vessels heading offshore may require an individual ships radio license rather than the standard general user radio license.

A callsign belongs to a person. If you purchase a vessel the callsign does not automatically transfer with the vessel. Permission must be granted by the person who owns the callsign to transfer the callsign to a new person. Fees apply.

*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.

To sign up to a Maritime VHF Radio Operator Certificate course, please visit: Maritime VHF Radio Operator Certificate course

MMSI

Within the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) a transmission may be automatically identified through the use of a Maritime Mobile Service Identifier (MMSI).  This 9 digit number is programmed into a Digital Selective Calling (DSC) radio and also into an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder.

MMSI automatically identify stations transmitting within the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.  The first 3 digits of an MMSI identify the country of registration of the station transmitting. E.g. 512 XXX XXX indicates a NZ station.
All radio transmissions must be uniquely identified, including digital transmissions. AIS transponders transmit on a VHF frequency and require an MMSI together with VHF DSC-capable radios.
DSC radio and AIS users are required to operate their units with a valid MMSI. Unfortunately, some users neglect to do so. It is also possible to transmit fraudulent messages; therefore AIS should not be used as an anti-collision device in isolation.

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.


  • 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. 

    Payment:
    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

    EPIRB/Personal Locator Beacon

    Manual Documents

    If you would prefer to submit a written application, please download the form below, print and then post to the address provided on the form.

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