Do I need a VHF radio and License?

Do I need a VHF radio and License

Heading out onto the open water carries with it many risks. Thinking about your safety before you head out is therefore essential. A VHF Marine Radio is the one piece of equipment that you shouldn’t head out without. Crucial in an emergency situation for contacting the coastguard or other nearby boats, they are also used to contact ports and other ship to shore communications. VHF Radios can also be used on inland waterways and lakes .Marine VHF Radios can only be operated legally by someone with the correct training and certification which I will go through in detail below.

Why should I carry a VHF Radio

Marine VHF Radios have a plethora of different uses and come in many different styles from Fixed Ships Radios, which are used on ships and yachts,  to small waterproof VHF Radios, which can be carried on small dinghies, kayaks or paddle boards amongst others. The radio you pick will depend on what your use for it is. Our shop team can offer advice on what marine VHF Radio would be best for you. 

Emergency Uses

A Marine VHF Radio is essential in an emergency situation on the water. Carrying a  vhfradio can both help save your life and can also help you save the lives of others in distress. In a life threatening situation on the water you can transmit a ‘Mayday’ call for help on Channel 16 which is the dedicated emergency channel. This message will be picked up by local coastguard stations but also by other boats in the vicinity who can come to your aid. If you carry a VHF Radio with you onboard and monitor channel 16 you can also come to the aid of nearby vessels in distress. 

Mobile phone instead of VHF?

A common question we get asked in the shop is why can’t you just use your mobile phone when in an emergency situation? Having your phone in a suitable waterproof case with you on the water is extremely important and is a great alternative for those who do not have a VHF Radio or Licence. There are limitations to their use however. You cannot contact any other passing boats or ships often leading to a slower response and communication with the coastguard can be more difficult. Once you get just a few miles offshore, phone signal is often lost rendering the phone useless. Phone signals can also affect the accuracy of GPS units which you may be relying on for your position. For these reasons we would always advise people to purchase a VHF Radio and get the necessary training if they regularly spend time on the water. 

Ship to shore communication

VHF Radios are also used for communicating with those on land. This could be with a marina you are looking to berth in or with a harbour master. Communicating with those on land can be important for safe navigation, for example you must notify Dublin Port by VHF Radio  if you intend to cross the shipping lane in Dublin Bay. Dublin Port can notify you of any incoming ships to help you safely cross and avoid collision. 

Marine VHF Radios are also used in plenty of other scenarios such as communicating during yacht racing. 

Do I need a Licence? 

It is a legal requirement to hold a licence if operating a marine VHF Radio. The possession and use of radio equipment in Ireland is governed by the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1926, (Act No 45 of 1926), (as amended), which stipulates that an appropriate Wireless Telegraphy licence must be held, unless licence exempted.


The qualification required is the Radio Operators Short Range Certificate, (SRC). This is usually a weekend course but also often takes place over several evenings. Once you have completed a course you will need to sit an examination to test your competency. (This is usually completed as part of the course) 

Information on radio operator certificate providers can be found at There are plenty of quality schools offering these courses to be found all over the country. 

Having a radio operators certificate will allow you to use the correct radio procedure should you encounter any problems while afloat. This can save time and make rescue more straightforward .

The course will give you the confidence to assist nearby vessels and possibly save lives. 

The ability to use a maritime VHF Radio correctly can also be a great confidence factor when the unforeseen occurs. 

To sum up we would recommend always carrying a VHF radio while on the water and of course the necessary qualifications to go with it. 

Click here to view our full range of VHF Radios and as always feel free to contact us in store for expert advice tailored to your specific requirements. 

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