Radio network services
Radio services give navigation warnings and weather forecasts. They also listen for distress and emergency signals. Here's how to use them.
How to use marine radio services
VHF, HF and 27 MHz marine radio services are available for the safety of boaters in NSW waters.
Radio services provide ‘listening watch’ for distress and emergency frequencies in the event that a boater encounters trouble on the water.
They also provide navigation warnings and weather forecasts to enable you to make better informed decisions about whether it is safe to go boating, or to stay out on the water.
In NSW, marine radio services are provided by Kordia (a specialist telecommunications company), the Port Authority of NSW and Marine Rescue NSW.
To learn more about using a marine radio, see the Australian Maritime College's Marine VHF Radio Operators Handbook.
You can also find all local Marine Rescue channels and frequencies for the NSW coast on the NSW Marine Rescue radio frequencies map (PDF 927.36KB).
National Coastal Radio Network
The National Coastal Radio Network (NCRN) was established in July 2002 by each of the States and Northern Territory to replace the Commonwealth funded and Telstra operated Coastal Radio Network. Each jurisdiction monitors the relevant VHF and HF 'distress and calling' frequencies, and broadcasts navigation warning and marine safety information relevant to their broadcast areas.
HF is used for long distance ship-to-shore communication. HF coverage is highly variable and dependant on a number of factors such as atmospheric and weather conditions and the power of the HF radio that is being used. Generally speaking HF coverage is up to 200 nautical miles, but under certain circumstances can be considerably more.
For HF radio, 24 hour, 7 day week service is provided by Kordia which monitors the 4125, 6215 and 8291 kHz distress and calling frequencies. This HF service covers NSW coastal waters to at least 200 nautical miles from the shore from a transceiver site in Charleville, Queensland (Callsign: CHARLEVILLE RADIO). Kordia also broadcasts relevant navigation warnings and marine safety information (MSI) on 8176 kHz at 1025 and 2325 hours as such warnings are received from AMSA.
This Kordia service replaces the services previously provided by Sydney Ports Corporation until 9 May 2011. The Kordia service duplicates, and may improve, the HF service previously provided by Sydney Ports Corporation. The location of the transceiver site in Charleville Queensland away from major cities and the coastline is ideal for propagation of HF radio, and therefore provides an improved service from the previous service that was operated out of Sydney.
The Bureau of Meteorology broadcasts marine weather information for NSW 'coastal waters' and 'high seas' from VMC Weather Australia East, located at Charleville Queensland, on the existing working frequencies: 2201, 4426, 6507, 8176, 12365 plus 16546 kHz. These broadcasts are made on a 24 hour, 7 day a week basis. This automated HF weather information service, which covers all NSW coastal waters, remains unchanged. The Bureau of Meteorology publicises the scheduled broadcast times.
The Hourly HAP charts published by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology provide a guide to choosing the most appropriate frequency for the time of the day.
The VHF component of the NCRN is provided by the Port Authority of NSW in the Sydney, Newcastle and Port Kembla areas, which monitor the VHF distress and emergency channel 16.
They also broadcast local weather and navigation warnings on VHF channel 67 at 0733 and 1733 hours EST. Severe weather warnings are broadcast at hourly intervals upon receipt of such warnings from AMSA and until such time that the severe weather conditions no longer exist.
This VHF service only covers waters within the vicinity of Newcastle to Nowra. The VHF component of the NCRN that is provided by the Port Authority of NSW remains unchanged.
Purpose of call and frequencies
Distress and emergency calling
- HF 4125 kHz
- HF 6215 kHz
- HF 8291 kHz
Monitored by Kordia 24 hours, 7 days a week.
VHF Channel 16 monitored by the Port Authority of NSW 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Weather forecasts and warnings
- 2201 kHz
- 4426 kHz
- 6507 kHz
- 8176 kHz
- 12365 kHz
- 16546 kHz
Broadcast schedule is available at Bureau of Meteorology.
VHF Channel 67 available in the Newcastle, Sydney Port Kembla areas and scheduled to be broadcasted at 0733 and 1733 hours. Severe weather warnings will be broadcast at hourly intervals upon receipt of such warnings from AMSA and until such time that the severe weather conditions no longer exist.
Navigation Warnings HF 8176 kHz Navigation warnings are scheduled to be broadcast at 1025 and 2325 hours and at times that such warnings are received from AMSA. VHF Channel 67 Available in the Newcastle, Sydney and Port Kembla areas and scheduled to be broadcast at 0733 and 1733 hours and at times that such warnings are received from AMSA.
Marine radio services provided by Marine Rescue NSW
27 MHz is the main frequency used by recreational boaters and the volunteer services because of its low cost and its suitability for use in enclosed waters where the majority of recreational boaters operate. This radio provides a range of 10–15 nautical miles which is usually limited to line of sight.
27 MHz radios allow ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication with the volunteer services. 27MHz radios are capable of transmitting distress alerts, receiving weather forecasts and marine safety information provided that the vessel is operating within the coverage area and times of the volunteer services.
VHF radios have a better range and clarity than 27 Mhz radios but are slightly more expensive. The Uniform Shipping Laws (USL) code states that effective VHF coverage only extends to 20 nautical miles from a shore station but may be as far as 30 nautical miles under some circumstances, such as where repeaters are used.
VHF also allows ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communications with the volunteer services and the Port Authority of NSW. This radio is therefore capable of transmitting distress signals, receiving weather forecasts and marine safety information.
Modern VHF radios have the additional feature of Digital Selective Calling (DSC) that allows distress alerting at the push of a button. Urgency and routine alerts, (such as position reporting) are also available to DSC users. To utilise the full range of features in a VHF DSC radio it must be interfaced with Global Positioning Service (GPS) equipment and programmed with a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI). To register for an MMSI contact the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
Users of VHF radio must hold (or be supervised by a holder of) a minimum of a Marine Radio Operators VHF Certificate of Proficiency. For details how to obtain this qualification, contact your local Marine Rescue NSW Unit.
Due to the discontinuing of distress, safety and urgency monitoring of 27 MHz by volunteer marine rescue agencies Australia-wide, boaters are encouraged to purchase VHF radio equipment and ensure they are appropriately certified for its use.
More information about VHF radio can be found on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) website.
VHF channels and their use
- Channel 16 – for distress and calling. Always change to another channel after calling
- Channel 67 – supplementary distress and calling channel. Also used for safety broadcasts
- Channel 73 – mostly used for vessels talking to a Marine Rescue NSW shore station
- Channel 72 and 77 – for ship-to-ship working. Use this to pass messages between vessels
- Channel 21, 22, 80, 81 & 82 – repeaters. Used for passing information about vessel movements and the safety of vessels and persons. Keep messages as brief as possible (no more than one minute in total) and DO NOT use these channels for chatter. Not all channels are available in a given area. Ask your local Marine Rescue NSW Unit for more information.
Certain Marine Rescue NSW Units maintain listening watches on 2182 kHz. Ask your local Marine Rescue NSW Unit for more information.
See the Marine Rescue website for more details on the marine radio services they provide and how to find your local unit.