Maritime radio channels will change on October 1

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 50, June 2016

Some maritime radio channels will change from October 1 – but the international distress channel 16 will remain the same.

New Zealand, along with a number of other countries, is required to change some maritime VHF repeater channels to make space for newly allocated international services for ship tracking and data services.

On October 1, New Zealand will move a few private VHF repeater services, all Coastguard VHF repeater services, and all NowCasting weather services. An updated radio handbook and frequency stickers will be available from August 1 with the new changes.

Although some maritime channels will change, the existing marine Channel 16 – used for safety, distress and calling purposes – will not change.

Current radios will be able to access all the available channels after the changes take place. However, you may need to switch to a new channel number to continue to access your local repeater or listen to the weather forecast.

The biggest change is the new 4-digit maritime channels for the Coastguard and NowCasting weather service. These 4-digit channel numbers are allocated internationally to new maritime channels. New Zealand will be using some of these new 4-digit maritime channels for the Coastguard and privately provided NowCasting weather services.

You will still be able to listen to the weather channels on your current VHF set by simply dropping the first two digits and using the last two digits of the 4-digit channel number. For example, in the Waitemata Harbour where the new weather channel number is 2019, you only need to use channel 19.

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In New Zealand’s coastal waters, maritime radio channels are used for many different purposes. These uses range from broadcasting weather information through to providing a method of communicating in the event of emergency.

Maritime NZ is the crown entity responsible for safe secure and clean seas in New Zealand. It continually monitors the safely distress and calling service on channel 16, via the Maritime Operations Centre – that works closely with the Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand.

Coastguard New Zealand is a voluntary organisation. It uses some of the maritime channels to provide services to members and help Maritime NZ when emergencies occur. Coastguard uses the maritime channels to broadcast weather information at key locations around the country. It also provides a breakdown service for members if they experience mechanical trouble on the water.

Radio Spectrum Management (which is a business unit of MBIE), is the organisation that manages radio spectrum of behalf of New Zealand.

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