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Maritime VHF Radio Callsigns & MMSI

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.

An MMSI is issued by Radio Spectrum Management and is permanently attached to a callsign. They must not be separated. 

An MMSI, once entered into a radio transmitter or AIS equipment, is very difficult and often costly to remove, therefore it is highly recommended that the callsign and MMSI remain with the vessel.

It is an offence to use a false MMSI or Callsign for a radio transmission.  

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 & MMSI belongs to a person (the ‘holder’). If you purchase a vessel the callsign & MMSI does not automatically transfer with the vessel. Permission must be granted by the person who holds the callsign & MMSI to transfer the callsign to a new holder. Fees apply. The MMSI number will be emailed to you once processed.

*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


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.

Maritime Vessels travelling overseas:

Maritime vessel operators that travel outside New Zealand waters may have difficulty convincing foreign maritime authorities that they hold a valid radio licence if operating under the NZ General User Radio Licence for Maritime Purposes. In these circumstances, you can choose to hold an individual licence and present a paper copy of this radio licence to foreign officials. An annual fee will apply.

Licence Information

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.

The licence is recorded in the online Register of Radio Frequencies (RRF) and is recognized by overseas administrations under agreements with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). A certified extract of the maritime ship licence can be printed from the RRF (https://rrf.rsm.govt.nz) as evidence to provide to overseas port authorities. A “Ship” describes any vessel from a small run-about to an ocean going cargo vessel.

Vessels that require Maritime Ship Licences include:

• Any vessel leaving New Zealand and voyaging overseas

• Compulsory equipped vessels that use Morse code

• Compulsory equipped vessels that use radio telephone for charter services and public transport.


  • 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. Individual persons as licence holders 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 via email to rsmlicensing@mbie.govt.nz or to PO Box 2847, Wellington.

The current annual licence fee is $150* 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 and may be prorated.

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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To use your National Coastguard NZ new member discount for $100 off a Day Skipper course, please in put your membership number in the Discount Code field below (e.g. 123456). This discount code may not be used in conjunction with any other offer, and can only be redeemed once. 

To use your National Coastguard NZ 15% membership discount on other selected Home Study courses, input "CGM" and your Coastguard membership number (e.g. CGM78091) into the  "Discount Code" field below. This discount code may not be used in conjunction with any other offer. The courses included in this discount offer are: Day Skipper (Not to be used in conjunction with $100 discount), Boatmaster, Maritime VHF Radio Operator Certificate, Inboard Engine Maintenance, Outboard Engine Maintenance and GPS Operator.

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