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Operating OperationsRiver HazardsVHF Radio UseLaw Enforcement

ODNR Division of Watercraft encourages all boaters using the Ohio River to install a VHF radio in their watercraft. The VHF radio may provide a vital link to obtaining help in the event of an "on-the-water" emergency.

Be aware that certain VHF channels are reserved for exclusive use purposes:

Channel Reserved for...
WX 1,2,3 Weather
13 Towboat traffic and lockmasters
16 Emergency, mayday and safety calling frequency
17 Exclusive state use
21 Exclusive United States Coast Guard
22 General public to Coast Guard/daily river level reports and updates for aids to navigation buoy and light reports
23 Exclusive United States Coast Guard
24-28 Marine telephone operator
81 Exclusive United States Coast Guard
83 United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

Emergency Radio Use
In the event of an emergency, distress calls are made on channel 16, the national distress frequency, using the following procedure:

  1. Select channel 16.
  2. State "mayday, mayday, mayday".
  3. Give your call sign and boat name.
  4. Give the location of your craft.
  5. Describe the emergency.
  6. If no answer, repeat the same sequence and wait.

Non-emergency Use
For normal radio operation: Select Channel 9 (a recognized hailing channel), state the name of the vessel you are attempting to contact, then your vessel's name and call numbers once; when the other craft responds, switch to another channel to talk.

Radio Licensing
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires a Ship Station License for some vessels equipped with VHF radios, RADAR, EPIRBs and some other telecommunications equipment. As of 1996, most recreational vessels no longer need the FCC license if operating domestically. "Domestically" means not traveling to foreign ports or transmitting to foreign stations, including Canada.

Vessels still required to carry an FCC Ship Station License are those:

  • power vessels over 20 meters (65.6 feet) in length;
  • certified to carry more than 6 passengers for hire;
  • towboats and commercial fishing vessels;
  • other vessels required by federal law to carry a VHF radio, radar, etc.

The Ship Station License must be on board the vessel.

A license application (Form 506) can be obtained from any office of the FCC. Call 1-800-418 FORM (3676) for an application and information. There is a fee for the license.

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Harbour Towne Yacht Club - 5001 Kellogg Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45230 - (513) 231-8107