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Maritime/ship licences

VHF only Ships

VHF marine radiotelephones may be installed on vessels or used as portable transceivers. They operate under the General User Radio Licence for Maritime Purposes, which does not require an individual license.

A unique radio callsign is required for each vessel. This can be obtained along with a Maritime Mobile Service Identifier (MMSI) number from an approved radio examiner (ARX).

Operators of marine radiotelephones are required by their licence to have an appropriate radio operator qualification. The courses and examinations are available nation-wide from an ARX.


Ship licences and callsign allocation

A full ship radio station licence is required for vessels to be listed in the ITU-R list of ship stations.

The chart below shows the various parties who allocate callsigns.

Note: The majority of VHF only callsign series are not recorded on Radio Spectrum Management’s (RSM) online Register of Radio Frequencies (the Register), but are administered by Coastguard Boating Education.


Callsign series

VHF only

MF/HF only


Four-letter callsigns

Coastguard Boating Education

May issue callsigns as prescribed in PIB 46

[icon] Blue tick small. [icon] Blue tick small. [icon] Blue tick small.  


May issue callsigns as prescribed in PIB 46

 [icon] Blue tick small. [icon] Blue tick small.  

RSM only

    [icon] Blue tick small.

Ship licences – commercial vessels

Requirements for radio operators on commercial vessels will vary depending on the type of radio equipment installed, the number of passengers, and the requirements of current safety legislation. Owners should approach their Safe Ship Management Company or Maritime New Zealand for further advice.

Information on the use of maritime frequencies in New Zealand is available in the Radio Handbook - Your guide to marine communication published by Maritime New Zealand and also in the New Zealand Nautical Almanac which is available from bookshops and ship chandlers.


Ship licences – MF/HF

MF/HF marine radiotelephones installed on New Zealand vessels can operated under the General User Radio Licence for Maritime Purposes. MF/HF call signs along with an MMSI number can be obtained from an ARX.

Operators of marine radio equipment must hold an appropriate operator’s certificate, available from an ARX.


Maritime Vessels travelling overseas

Maritime vessel operators that travel outside New Zealand waters may have difficulty convincing foreign Maritime authorities that they hold a valid radio licence if operating under the General User Radio Licence for Maritime Purposes. In these circumstances, you can choose to hold an individual licence and present a paper copy of this radio licence to foreign officials. An annual fee will apply.

Application for a Maritime Ship licence for a vessel travelling overseas can be made online, or contact an approved radio engineer or certifier, or an ARX to apply for the licence on your behalf.

You may change between a call sign record and an individual licence (or vice-versa) at any time. Simply contact RSM on Freephone 0508 RSM INFO (0508 776 463), or by email to rsmlicensing@mbie.govt.nz. If you are changing from a call sign record to an individual licence, an annual administration fee applies.

Callsign series allocated by RSM to individually licensed vessels are listed in Radio Operator Certificate and Callsign Rules (PIB 46). You can also search certificates and callsigns in the Register.


Coast stations

Most VHF Coast Stations are able to operate under the provisions of the General User Radio Licence for Maritime Purposes.

Stations required to be individually licenced:

  • All maritime repeaters.
  • All MF/HF Coast Stations.
  • All VHF Coast Stations that are remotely accessed. These Coast Stations are typically located on a high point to extend the coverage of the Coast Station and linked by a UHF fixed link or a landline to the radio operator.

Contact an approved radio engineer or certifier to apply for land based maritime licences and repeater station licences.


VHF coastal and portable radio stations callsigns

Callsigns are not issued for VHF only coast radio stations.

For the purposes of station identifiers for stations operating as coastal or portable radio stations under the general user radio licence the station is to be identified by the choice of the operator based on local terrain or geographic reference.

For example a coast station established around Flat point may be known as “Flat Point Coast Station”. There may also be a portable operating in the same area but not associated with the ‘Coast’ station, this may be known as “Flat Point Portable 1”. This may include the user group formed to maintain the station for example “Castlepoint user association Coast Radio”


Navigation equipment

Most radar and other radio navigation equipment on vessels and radio buoys are covered by the General User Radio Licence for Maritime Purposes which covers the operation of the maritime radio equipment on board the vessel.


Further information

Coastguard Boating Education

ITU-R list of ship stations

Maritime New Zealand


Last updated 12 September 2018