Radio Calling Procedure

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Routine Calls

When making a routine call to another boat or limited coast station, state clearly:

  • The boat/group you are calling (spoken three times if communications are difficult)
  • THIS IS - name of your boat (spoken three times if necessary)
  • Message
  • OVER

Note the frequencies in use for calling procedures. VHF channel 16 is normally used for VHF Radio, however various calling frequencies are used for HF Radio, and in many cases routine calls over HF Radio are made outside the calling or emergency frequencies.

The standard Phonetic Alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, etc) is useful if you're having difficulty being understood.

After making a routine call on VHF it is normal to switch to another VHF channel. See VHF Radio for a list of channels likely to be used.

Routine Call (Radiotelegram) Example

The calling and working procedure between two stations, e.g. a ship station Alpha and a coast station Singapore Radio, should be as follows:

After ascertaining that it will not interfere with any communications or call in the silence period, the ship station ALPHA calls SINGAPORE RADIO as follows:

  • THIS IS ALPHA, ALPHA, ALPHA (not more than 3 times)
  • I have a radiotelegram for you. My working frequency is channel 9 - over


  • HELLO ALPHA (not more than three times)
  • THIS IS SINGAPORE RADIO (not more than three times)
  • Romeo that, listen for me on channel 9. Your turn is number two. Over

Alpha acknowledges

  • ROMEO. Going channel 9 and standing by.

SINGAPORE RADIO should also acknowledge that they have understood each other. The call and answer should have been on channel 16. Alpha and SINGAPORE RADIO then change to the arranged frequencies, although SINGAPORE RADIO may be busy on another frequency so Alpha should standby on channel 9 until SINGAPORE RADIO calls him. They should both check that they call and listen on the correct frequencies as arranged.

Alpha then replies:

  • THIS IS ALPHA, ALPHA, ALPHA (not more than three times)


  • HELLO ALPHA (not more than three times)
  • THIS IS SINGAPORE RADIO (not more than three times)
  • Receiving you OK. Send your message. Over

Alpha replies:

  • Radiotelegram begin. From ALPHA Number 1 (number of telegram) Number of words .......... Date ......... Time .........(GMT) Service indications/instructions, if any ......... Paid service instructions, if any ........., Name and address of addressee Text (message) ........ Signature (if any) Radiotelegram ends, collation ......... Repetition of all difficult words and code groups etc., each phrase repeated twice at dictation speed. Over

SINGAPORE RADIO acknowledges receipt:

  • your number one received OVER.

Alpha replies:

  • I have nothing further to communicate.
  • OUT

SINGAPORE Radio acknowledges:


A radiotelegram, or series of telegrams, should not be considered as cleared until the acknowledgement as above has been received and understood. Should atmospheric conditions be bad or reception difficult, SINGAPORE RADIO may repeat the telegram back to Alpha in full or part for confirmation.


The radiotelephone distress signal consists of the expression MAYDAY. This signal, which indicates that the vessel sending it is threatened by grave and imminent danger and that the vessel requires immediate assistance, is used in the distress call which precedes the distress message and may only be transmitted on the authority of the Master or person responsible for the vessel. The transmission should be made slowly and distinctly, each word clearly pronounced.

The distress call and distress message should be preceded by the ALARM SIGNAL which consists of two alternative audio frequency tones, one a high note of 2200 cycles per second and the other a low note of l300 cycles per second, making a distinctive warbling sound which should be transmitted for approximately 30-60 seconds time permitting.

The purpose of the ALARM SIGNAL is to attract attention:

  • To announce urgent severe weather warnings (cyclones, etc.)
  • Distress calls.
  • The loss of a person overboard when assistance by other ships is required and cannot be satisfactorily obtained by the use of the URGENCY SIGNAL only. The distress signal MAYDAY should be sent before each call and before each message concerning distress.

Distress Call Procedure

The distress call 'mayday' may be used only if the boat is threatened by grave and imminent danger and immediate assistance is required. For example, the boat is sinking or on fire. This distress call has absolute priority over all other transmissions and may only be transmitted on the authority of the skipper or the person responsible for the safety of the boat. Calls are made on distress frequencies (VHF 16, 27.88 MHz or HF 4125, 6215, 8291 kHz). Call procedure:

  • THIS IS - name and radio call sign of boat in distress (spoken three times)
  • Name and radio call sign of boat (repeated once more)
  • Details of boat's position and heading
  • Nature of distress and assistance required
  • Other information including number of people on board, boat description and intentions

Example of Distress Call and Message

  • The ALARM SIGNAL transmitted for 30 – 60 seconds
  • THIS IS SV Monkey Magic ZX999 SV Monkey Magic ZX999 SV Monkey Magic ZX999
  • MAYDAY SV Monkey Magic ZX999
  • Position 10 miles Southwest of Singapore
  • Struck unidentified object, and sinking, require immediate assistance, will fire off distress rockets at intervals
  • White hulled sailing vessel, white sails with blue sail covers, distinctive mauve coloured weather dodger at stern
  • 3 people on board, life jackets on, life raft being launched

Acknowledgement of Receipt of a Distress Message

Vessels in the vicinity should acknowledge receipt immediately but when in the vicinity of a coast station time should be allowed for the coast station to reply without interference.

Vessels not in the immediate vicinity should allow a short interval to elapse before acknowledging, to allow stations near the vessel in distress and in a better position to render assistance to acknowledge receipt without interference from stations not in the vicinity.

Distress messages should be acknowledged as follows

  • Name of vessel or coast station that transmitted the distress message, repeated three times
  • THIS IS ....... (name of vessel or coast station acknowledging receipt, repeated three times)

Every vessel acknowledging receipt of a distress message should, upon the order of the Master or person responsible for the vessel, supply its name, position, speed at which it is proceeding to the distress scene, and the time it will take to reach the distress scene.

When not in a position to render assistance, a station hearing a distress message which has not been acknowledged should take all possible steps to attract attention of other stations who may be in a position to render assistance. The ALARM SIGNAL and the MAYDAY RELAY signal should be used to attract attention.

The SILENCE PERIODS may be used for repeating/relaying distress messages and the distress messages may also be repeated/relayed on any other frequency if further assistance is required. The frequency of channel 16 is recommended and the distress message may be repeated/relayed on all frequencies if no attention is obtained on the channel 16.

Mayday Relay

A ship station or coast station learning of a mobile station in distress should relay a distress message in the following cases:

  • When the station in distress cannot transmit a distress message itself.
  • When the master or person responsible for the station considers that further help is necessary.
  • When it has heard a distress call that has not been acknowledged and is not in a position to render assistance itself.

The distress message should be announced and relayed as follows:

  • THIS IS name of station relaying the distress message, repeated three times
  • distress message as received.

When relaying a distress message it is important to use the words MAYDAY RELAY so that D.F. bearings are not taken on the wrong station.

Restrictions on other stations during distress communications

The vessel in distress or the station controlling distress traffic may impose silence on ALL other stations or any one station, by transmitting the signal SEELONCE MAYDAY followed by its name or identification on the frequency being used for distress working. No other station may use this expression. Other stations wishing to impose silence may use the expression SEELONCE DISTRESS followed by its name or identification.

Stations not participating in the rescue operations may not transmit on the frequencies being used for distress communications before the controlling station announces SEELONCE FEENEE in which case normal communications may be resumed or SEELONCE PRUDONCE in which case the frequencies being used for distress communications may be used for other communications providing no interference is caused to the distress communications (SEELONCE PRUDONCE is or should be announced when continuous silence is no longer required, when other brief communications are allowed on condition that the operators listen carefully before communicating to avoid interference when the frequencies are required by the stations involved in the rescue operations)

At the end of the distress phase, when no further assistance is required, the controlling station should cancel the silence imposed by the distress signals by broadcasting a message to ALL stations as follows MAYDAY (once) hullo ALL STATIONS (3 times) this is ...... name of controlling station, 3 times, time and name of ship that was in distress, SEELONCE FEENEE OUT.

Normal communications may then be resumed but stations should listen carefully and avoid interference to urgency and safety messages which often follow distress operations.


The Radiotelephone Urgency Signal is the expression PAN-PAN transmitted three times before the call and may be sent only on the authority of the master or person responsible for the station.

It indicates that the station transmitting it has a very urgent message to transmit concerning the safety of a ship, aircraft or other vessel; or the safety of a person e.g. engine breakdown and vessel drifting into danger, but not in immediate danger and requiring a tow or other assistance, urgently; serious illness or injury of a person on board, man overboard, etc.

  • The Urgency Signal should be used to announce an urgency message on channel 16 and may be addressed to a particular station or to all stations (Charlie Quebec).
  • The Urgency Signal has priority over all other signals except Distress Signals and stations hearing it should avoid interfering with the Urgency Message.
  • Stations hearing the Urgency Signal should continue to listen for at least three minutes. If at the end of that period no Urgency Message has been heard, normal working may be resumed.
  • If the Urgency Message was addressed to all stations, the station which transmitted it should cancel it by another message addressed to all stations when no further assistance is required.
  • Urgency Messages may be repeated in the last minute of silence periods and/or on the alternative call and safety frequency channel 16 (VHF) if insufficient response is obtained.

Urgency Call Procedure

  • THIS IS - name and radio call sign of boat (spoken three times)
  • Details of the boat's position and heading
  • Details of assistance required and other information


The expression SECURITE pronounced SAY-CURE-E-TAY repeated three times preceding a call to all stations indicates that the station making the call is announcing a message concerning the safety of navigation, e.g. a Navigation Warning, Gale Warning, etc. Navigation warnings should be announced on 2182 or channel 16 and transmitted on working frequencies. The safety call should be used if you wish to broadcast an important navigational warning to other stations. For example, you have sighted a large floating object that could damage the hull of a boat. A safety call is more likely to be made by a coast station or a limited coast station operated by a marine rescue group and may include important weather warnings such as severe thunderstorm, gale and cyclone warnings.

The Safety signal SECURITE should be transmitted or repeated towards the end of the first available Silence Period and the warning transmitted immediately after the Silence Period.

The Safety Signal has priority over all other signals except Distress and Urgency signals/message and stations hearing it should not cause interference unless they have a distress or urgency message to transmit.

Safety Call Procedure

Call procedure:

  • SECURITE, SECURITE, SECURITE (pronounced as Say-cure-e-tay say-cure-e-tay say-cure-e-tay -- the French word Sécurité is standard)
  • THIS IS - name and radio call sign of boat or shore station (spoken three times)
  • Details of the warning

You may make the initial safety call to ail stations on a distress frequency. However, you should change to a working frequency to make the broadcast of the safety message.

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