recreational boating marine radio channels list

Non-Commercial VHF Marine Radio Channels – Frequencies You Can Use

Here are VHF-FM non-commercial channels recreational boaters may use in specific situations.

Federal Communications Commission regulations require boaters having VHF radios to maintain a watch on either channel 9 or channel 16, whenever the radio is turned on and not communicating with another station. All non-emergency traffic should be communicated on another channel (not channels 9 or 16).

For safety purposes, boats are supposed to monitor channel 16 at all times. Channel 16 is also a hailing frequency, but the FCC wants recreational boaters to use channel 9 for hailing (designated as a hailing channel in 1992) in order to keep 16 open to distress calls.

Recreational Boating Marine Radio Channels


New Channel NumberOld Channel NumberShip Transmit MHzShip Receive MHzUse
100101A156.050156.050Port Operations and Commercial, VTS. Available only in New Orleans / Lower Mississippi area.
100505A156.250156.250Port Operations or VTS in the Houston, New Orleans and Seattle areas.
0606156.300156.300Intership Safety
100707A156.350156.350Commercial. VDSMS
0808156.400156.400Commercial (Intership only). VDSMS
0909156.450156.450Boater Calling. Commercial and Non-Commercial. VDSMS
1010156.500156.500Commercial. VDSMS
1111156.550156.550Commercial. VTS in selected areas. VDSMS
1212156.600156.600Port Operations. VTS in selected areas.
1313156.650156.650Intership Navigation Safety (Bridge-to-bridge). Ships >20m length maintain a listening watch on this channel in US waters.
1414156.700156.700Port Operations. VTS in selected areas.
1515156.750Environmental (Receive only). Used by Class C EPIRBs.
1616156.800156.800International Distress, Safety and Calling. Ships required to carry radio, USCG, and most coast stations maintain a listening watch on this channel.  See our Watchkeeping Regulations page.
1717156.850156.850State & local govt maritime control
101818A156.900156.900Commercial. VDSMS
101919A156.950156.950Commercial. VDSMS
2020157.000161.600Port Operations (duplex)
102020A157.000157.000Port Operations
102121A157.050157.050U.S. Coast Guard only
102222A157.100157.100Coast Guard Liaison and Maritime Safety Information Broadcasts. Broadcasts announced on channel 16.
102323A157.150157.150U.S. Coast Guard only
2424157.200161.800Public Correspondence (Marine Operator). VDSMS
2525157.250161.850Public Correspondence (Marine Operator). VDSMS
2626157.300161.900Public Correspondence (Marine Operator). VDSMS
2727157.350161.950Public Correspondence (Marine Operator). VDSMS
2828157.400162.000Public Correspondence (Marine Operator). VDSMS
106363A156.175156.175Port Operations and Commercial, VTS. Available only in New Orleans / Lower Mississippi area.
106565A156.275156.275Port Operations
106666A156.325156.325Port Operations
6767156.375156.375Commercial. Used for Bridge-to-bridge communications in lower Mississippi River. Intership only.
6868156.425156.425Non-Commercial. VDSMS
6969156.475156.475Non-Commercial. VDSMS
7070156.525156.525Digital Selective Calling (voice communications not allowed)
7171156.575156.575Non-Commercial. VDSMS
7272156.625156.625Non-Commercial (Intership only). VDSMS
7373156.675156.675Port Operations
7474156.725156.725Port Operations
7777156.875156.875Port Operations (Intership only)
107878A156.925156.925Non-Commercial. VDSMS
107979A156.975156.975Commercial. Non-Commercial in Great Lakes only. VDSMS
108080A157.025157.025Commercial. Non-Commercial in Great Lakes only. VDSMS
108181A157.075157.075U.S. Government only – Environmental protection operations.
108282A157.125157.125U.S. Government only
108383A157.175157.175U.S. Coast Guard only
8484157.225161.825Public Correspondence (Marine Operator). VDSMS
8585157.275161.875Public Correspondence (Marine Operator). VDSMS
8686157.325161.925Public Correspondence (Marine Operator). VDSMS
8787157.375157.375Public Correspondence (Marine Operator). VDSMS
8888157.425157.425Commercial, Intership only. VDSMS
AIS 1AIS 1161.975161.975Automatic Identification System (AIS)
AIS 2AIS 2162.025162.025Automatic Identification System (AIS)
  • Channel 16: For hailing, safety and emergency use only
  • Channel 9: Pleasure-boat hailing channel
  • Channels 68, 69, 71, 72 and 78A: Recreational working channels
  • Channels 1, 7A, 8, 10, 11, 18A, 19A, 63, 77, 79A, 80A and 88A: Commercial channels (Pleasure boaters are supposed to stay off them.)
  • Channel 13: For requesting bridge openings, although in some areas it’s channel 67.
  • Channels 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 84, 85, 86 and 87: Used by marine operators.
  • Channel 22: Coast Guard working channel, the one where safety broadcasts are made after they alert you on channel 16 and ask you to switch over
  • Channel 6: For Inter-ship safety communications
  • Channels 1, 5, 12, 14, 20, 63, 65A, 66A, 73, 74 and 77: For port operations (Many of these are used by recreational boats in areas where no port operations exist.)
  • Channel 70: A dedicated Digital Selective Calling (DSC) channel. DSC is an automated distress system that allows us to make digital phone calls through our VHFs. Is your VHF set up properly?

Do I Need A License To Transmit On VHF Marine Radio?

The FCC decided in 1996 that “voluntary users” need no longer obtain a radio license. Voluntary users are defined as being boats less than 20 meters in length that don’t carry people for hire and don’t broadcast outside of U.S. waters. If you meet those criteria, you can operate a VHF, radar and EPIRB without a license.

VHFs (very high frequencies) work on a line-of-sight basis, meaning that their FM signals don’t follow the curvature of the earth, so antenna height is critical. Basically, the higher your antenna (and the higher the receiving antenna), the farther you can talk. 

Baofeng Radio For VHF Marine Band

TIP: You can use a handheld Baofeng radio (UV-5R / BF-F8HP) for this. Using CHIRP software, you can program in whatever channels you want. I keep one particular set of channels for VHF Marine frequencies.

Incidentally, if you do have a Baofeng, there’s an antenna upgrade that is specifically tuned to transmit within these frequencies. That’s exactly what I did…

[ Read: Best BaoFeng Antenna Upgrade for Ham Radio or GMRS, FRS, MURS, Marine Bands ]

Side note: In my local area (which is out of range from boating communications on ocean waters), I’ve heard loggers and hunters using the VHF Marine radio band for comms.


  1. Good info, thank you, the fact that the government maintains repeaters for VHF here in the islands make these very reliable and can go a decent distance

  2. i would think that it would be possible to split a few of these channels for OPSEC reasons. but i don’t know. i’ll have to differ to the experts here. i’ll try with my radio’s this weekend and report back on what i can send and receive on ‘off’ channels. ya never know, and nor will they if you keep it short and power no more than necessary so that scanners will not pick them up.
    send messages in pig latin, that will throw them off for a short while. : )

  3. Good info. It is my understanding, in an EMERGENCY all rules and regs go out the window. If grid-down or comms down, I would think EMERGENCY would be a great description of the situation. Having said that, knowing the frequencies where help might be found, is critical info. Also knowing what frequencies might be more, shall we say available, could be important as well.

    I encourage everyone to learn something about radio. During a crisis is not the time to learn. Wasn’t that long ago when I first looked at a ham radio. Daunting, intimidating, scary are just a few words to describe my feelings at that time. All the knobs, dials, buttons, etc. WOW! It’s easier than I thought and likely easier than you think.

  4. Using Marine freqs is technically illegal, if not on/near h2o..that said, since it’s LOS, HT’s w little power, usually not an issue..Wildlife agents do monitor those freqs though and some state/local detention facilities use them as well.

    You should also add frs/gmrs/murs freqs to the list, and get a gmrs license to allow you to use gmrs repeaters and higher wattage rigs…Just pay a fee, covers the whole “family.”
    Of course getting a technician license is easy to do and opens up a whole world of local/regional emcomm options.

    Emcomm is about layers of options, local, regional, national and global if need be.
    All of my uhv/vhf/hf rigs are set up for that.

    I focus on local/regional tx/rx with a focus on rx on national and global comms.
    Listening is 2x as important as talking.

    Please note that all analog vhf/uhf chatter is not encrypted, so you can and will, be heard by guys like me w sigint skills and equipment, and that’s a whole ‘nother can o whip***…

    Go here for National Interoperability Field Operations Guide.

    Download and print. In a total wrol/grid down, .gov/.le/.mil will revert to old school analog stuff..

    I suggest folks look into lot of good resources there and head over to for more rock solid commo info/resources and training if possible.


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