Few things seem as positive for boating as the U.S. Coast Guard’s impressive
search-and-rescue (SAR) mission. We all depend on its accuracy and success
to save us if the worst were to happen. Partnering in that important mission,
BoatU.S. has been an enthusiastic supporter of the use of Maritime Mobile
Service Identity (MMSI), the series of nine digits used for Digital Selective Calling
(DSC) and Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) to uniquely identify a ship,
boat, or coast radio station for coordination of assets in an emergency.
With the push of the Mayday button, your unique MMSI number is used with your
VHF radio equipped with DSC and GPS to notify the Coast Guard of your position and
identity, as well as distance information to other vessels in your area. These sophisticated
systems, in concert, can be a lifesaver for boaters in distress.
Since 2000 we’ve championed the importance of MMSI numbers and up-to-date registration information, so that when you make an emergency radio call, the Coast Guard
knows who you are, your boat’s characteristics, your emergency contact info and phone
numbers, and where you are.
We believe this is such an important safety tool that we’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into issuing free MMSIs to U.S. boaters, and we maintain this database
as well as the Coast Guard’s access to it.
Recently we’ve learned that data shared with the USCG for search and rescue also
may be used by other parts of the federal government. Using certain DSC functions on
DSC-enabled ships’ radios or handheld radios, for instance, could allow law enforcement, NOAA, or the USCG to use the unique MMSI number to figure out where a particular boat is, or where it was when it made the broadcast. Your reaction to this may be,
“So what? I’m not breaking any laws.” Nevertheless, as your Association, it’s important
that we tell you that information given to us under the auspices of safe boating may be
BoatU.S. believes in the Coast Guard, its vital search-and-rescue mission, and in the
value of DSC-enabled radios hooked up to GPS, and operated with MMSI numbers. For
more information on how these systems work, visit www.BoatUS.com/Magazine and
click on “Privacy & Your Radio.” There
you’ll also learn how to get a free MMSI
number, and how to properly hook up
I hope you’re having a wonderful summer. See you on the water!
PRIVACY & YOUR RADIO
Margaret Bonds Podlich
VOLUME XX, No. 3, JUNE/JULY 2014
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BOATU. S. PRESIDEN T
Margaret Bonds Podlich
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