Marine radio distress and urgency calls

In a boating emergency, things can become chaotic if you don't know how to use your radio properly, call for help or recognise that another boat is calling for help.

If in distress or danger you should use a distress call.

How to make a mayday call

You should make a mayday call if you are in serious danger and need immediate assistance - eg: your boat is sinking or on fire.

Follow these steps to make a mayday call:

Step 1. 'Mayday, mayday, mayday.'
Step 2. 'This is (your name, and call sign if you have one)' - spoken three times.
Step 3. 'Mayday (your name, and call sign if you have one).'
Step 4. Give details of your vessel's position.
Step 5. Say what is wrong and what help you need.
Step 6. Give other information including the number of persons on board.
Step 7. Activate your EPIRB.

How to make an urgency call

If you are concerned about the safety of your vessel or a person on board you should use an urgency call - eg: in a medical emergency or for a man overboard.

Follow these steps to make an urgency call:

Step 1. 'Pan pan, pan pan, pan pan.'
Step 2. 'Hello all stations, hello all stations, hello all stations.'
Step 3. 'This is (your name, and call sign if you have one)' - spoken three times.
Step 4. Give details of your vessel's position.
Step 5. Give details of what help you need and other information.

Find out more by reading the Marine Radio Operators Handbook on the Australian Maritime College website.

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Last updated: 18 July 2017