Marine communications and radio

Recreational boats: marine communications and radio

Read below to find out what communications equipment you must carry on your recreational vessel.

What you must carry

There are only a few pieces of safety communications equipment that a recreation boat must carry when operating at sea within the Northern Territory (NT).

These include:

  • two orange smoke flares and two red flares if the vessel is operating in intermediate or open waters
  • a V-sheet if the vessel is operating in intermediate or open waters
  • an EPIRB if the vessel is more than two nautical miles from the coastline.

What you can choose to carry

There are many pieces of additional equipment you can choose to carry on your recreational boat.

There can be no better reason for installing a marine radio in your boat other than one day it may save a life.

That life could be yours or that of a member of your family.

The sea can be a frightening and lonely place, especially if you are in trouble. A marine radio gives you the ability to advise other people that you need help.

It may be your only contact with the outside world.


If you want to install a VHF radio you may need to hold an operators qualification including one of the following:

  • restricted radiotelephone operator certificate of proficiency
  • third class commercial operator certificate of proficiency
  • marine radio operator certificate of proficiency
  • marine radio operator VHF certificate of proficiency.

You can apply for this qualification by contacting a training provider through the following websites:


You must have an apparatus licence to operate an HF radio.

For information on how to get a licence, go to the Australian Maritime College website.

Mobile and satellite phones

You should not consider mobile and satellite phones as substitutes or replacements for emergency communications.

A mobile phone only allows for communication between two people at any one time. This leads to messages being passed via a third party with the risk vital information may be lost or misinterpreted.

Few rescue vessels are fitted with or carry mobile phones.

Mobile phones do not provide for distress priority alerting and calls may not be immediately connected if the signal is very congested, such as in areas around major cities.

Mobile phone range is very restricted within the NT.

Rescue vessels can't home in on a mobile or satellite phone signal.

Marine communications equipment allows direction-finding equipment to be used.

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Last updated: 10 March 2015

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