Member II
Hello folks-

I'm a bit lost... I have my nice new GPIRB, PLB, and DSC handheld, and will be replacing the built in VHF with an AIS one (different discussion/post for later). My questions are:

1. Do the GPIRB, PLB need an MMSI? It seems like one can just register them with NOAA?

2. If they need an MMSI, does it need to be... a BoatUS MMSI (domestic only), or an FCC MMSI (international, for an extra $220 or whatever)?

3. I wish to emulate Christian and someday sail to Hawaii... which is not international, but the water in between is.... do I need an FCC MMSI for international? Or is that just if I go to Canada or Mexico?

4. For $220 a license, it seems perhaps best to wait and see if one is *really* going to Mexico, and if so maybe buying a new radio for the trip. Do any of you SoCal folks actually go down there enough to need the FCC license?

This is all worse since I don't want my DSC handheld VHF to have the same MMSI as the boat VHF, since if I fall overboard I want to be able to call the folks on the boat... so I'd need two FCC licenses = $440. I'm inclined to skip it, since who can pick up DSC in mid Pacific anyway... that seems like InReach territory, unless the GPIRB requires the FCC license...

I suspect some of you are more experienced with this stuff than you ever wanted to be... advice definitely appreciated.


Member III
I understand that an MMSI issued by FCC is required for any foreign travel, including Canada and Mexico. I am told that to change from a BoatUS MMSI to FCC can be a real PITA.

USCG says that, for now, FCC cannot presently assign an MMSI to a device not associated with a particular ship, and that devices which are so associated should have the same MMSI as the ship station.

I got my MMSI a couple weeks ago, but my handheld does not have DSC. The FCC licensing application has LOTS of questions, and will probably help you to answer some of your other questions.


Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
Wow, it sounds as if the costs have really escalated in the last decade. (I suppose that must mean that mine is nearing expiration...)
What you need from the FCC are a Ships Station License (permanently belongs to the boat) and a Restricted Radiotelephone Operators License (permanently belongs to the individual). An mmsi comes with the SSL and goes into all of your devices, except perhaps the PLB.

Once you receive an MMSI, you cannot change it. This was the main reason I went with the real license, even though I wasn't crossing borders at the time.

You can still make regular DSC calls between two devices with the same MMSI. But if you "fall overboard" and hit the big red button, you will be talking to EVERYBODY within range.

Some people do want a separate MMSI for a handheld because they use it on different boats at different times. This is theoretically allowed in the rules but there is no good implementation available. Many discussions can be found on the topic with an on-line search.