Marine SSB users take note: the U.S. Coast Guard is changing the radio frequencies it will monitor for voice distress calls at sea.
As of Jan. 1, 2005, the Coast Guard no longer monitors the ITU duplex channels that make up what the agency calls its Systems Coordination Network for voice distress calls. These channels are familiar to many as the frequencies used to receive the high-seas weather forecast, a function that will not change.
The Coast Guard’s ears now will be tuned to the simplex frequencies associated with the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (see table). This change is one more step in the Coast Guard’s adoption of GMDSS and bringing U.S. distress watchkeeping more in step with the practices of other marine nations.
No phase-in or overlap period is planned, and the Coast Guard will discontinue watchkeeping completely on the old ITU channels on Jan. 1. It then will begin monitoring the GMDSS voice frequencies. After initial contact is made, the Coast Guard will ask callers to switch to one of the ITU “working” channels.
Users of digital-selective-calling-enabled equipment, such as Icom’s M802 SSB, should precede a voice call on one of these frequencies with a DSC hail.
On the other hand, owners of older SSB equipment should confirm they have these newer simplex channels.