Maritime Radio

Learn about the requirements and certificates for using maritime radio.

On this page:

Radio a MAYDAY

Find out how to radio a distress call if you are in imminent danger and need immediate help.

Learn how to radio a MAYDAY

Your guide to communication

A helpful resource and a must for every skipper.

In this handbook:

learn the correct procedures for communicating

find information about coverage and services

find useful contacts and a glossary

two stickers for quick reference

Request print copy Download as PDF


Except in the case of an emergency or distress situation, maritime radio users must:

There are quite a few different levels of radio licences issued for marine use on ships. The highest grade license is GMDSS, which covers a wide variety of types of communication equipment. Higher grade licenses are most commonly required for radio operators on commercial ships.

All users of marine VHF are required to hold a minimum of a marine VHF operator’s qualification and be issued with a radio call sign.

The Coastguard Boating Education Service is responsible for issuing and updating radio call signs for commercial and recreational boaties. They also provide tutorials and learning resources for people who want to study for the marine VHF radio operator’s qualification.

VHF Radio

The minimum requirement for all users of Marine VHF Radio.

Call sign application form

Radio outside of New Zealand

Anyone operating a marine radio outside of New Zealand’s coastal waters (12 mile limit), needs to have a radio operator license. This includes for a VHF marine radio (short range).

Information about licensing for vessels operating outside New Zealand’s coastal waters is available from Radio Spectrum Management. They manage New Zealand’s radio frequency spectrum and are part of the Ministry of Economic Development.

Maritime and ship licences

Related information:
Get a quick guide for MAYDAY calling.

Radio distress calling

This sticker outlines the radio procedure for distress calls.

[PDF: 30KB, 1 page]


Contact us for more help

For further information please contact our Wellington office.


New Zealand (toll free):
0508 225 522

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