The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Three Good Reasons to Get a MMSI

Jeff Cote

Pacific Yacht Systems
July 19th, 2017

Some of you may say what is a MMSI? Short for Maritime Mobile Service Identity, this nine digit number identifies your vessel and opens many new communication opportunities within the boating world.

Whether you operate a pleasure craft or a commercial vessel, having a MMSI enhances the detail in a Mayday or Pan Pan call on a VHF or SSB Radio. It is mandatory for commercial vessels and is now available for the pleasure craft vessels. With a MMSI number programmed into your radio (VHF & SSB’s), an exact identification of your vessel is sent when your radio’s distress button is pressed and held for 5 seconds. Digitally encoded on channel 70, your vessel’s ID is transmitted during a distress call on a VHF radio and on frequencies 2187.5Khz, 4207.5Khz, 6312Khz, 8414.5Khz, 12577Khz and 16804.5Khz (DSC channels).  So, the first reason to get a MMSI number would be for the safety of your vessel and crew.

Almost all new VHF Radios are equipped with DSC (Digital Selective Calling), this enables you to create your own phone book of friends by entering their MMSI numbers into My Calling List.  If you are in a very busy area with a lot of traffic on Channel 16, you can select your friend’s MMSI number along with a working channel and transmit the call request.  They can acknowledge the call by pressing PTT and their radio switches to the selected work channel and the conversation begins without cluttering Channel 16. As a result your call becomes a little more private as other boaters did not hear your initial call on Channel 16.  Reducing clutter on channel 16 and increasing privacy is reason number two.

More and more electronic devices, such as chartplotters and radars, are using AIS or the Automatic Identification System.  Mandatory on vessels 300 tonnes and up, AIS requires a MMSI to identify you to the others around you.  It offers information such as speed, heading, type of vessel and number of crew. There are two different types of AIS, one that is receive only and one that receives and transmits. This technology shows others where you are and allows you to text MMSI to MMSI, vessel to vessel or to all vessels or to a group of MMSI’s.

Click here, for more information on how to get an MMSI in Canada.  There are also a number of AIS apps that can be used on your iPad, the most popular is Boat Beacon by Pocket Mariner, and there’s also vessel finder.


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