Licensing and the rules

Operator Licence

When you successfully complete our VHF SRC course the RYA will issue you a operators licence. This is the licence you need to use a radio and is valid for life.

However, for you to use a radio you must be given permission by the master of the vessel.

Other people, without an operators licence, can use a radio under your supervision.

Note that your UK SRC license may not be recognized on non-UK register vessels.

Ships Licence

Your vessel also needs a Ships Radio Licence. In the UK these are issued by Ofcom. See the Ofcom Licensing Centre for more details.

The licence lasts for 10 years and is free as long as you apply online (£20 by post).

In general, a ship’s licence covers all equipment that transmits from the vessel (and tender), this includes:

– VHF Radio (DSC or non-DSC)
– Handheld VHF Radio (DSC or non-DSC)
– Radar

Note: it does not cover equipment that only receives ie. NAVTEX.

You ships licence does not cover transmitting from shore to your boat ie. you cannot take your handheld to the shops.

Type Approved

You can only use radios in the UK (and Europe) that are “type approved” and therefore have a CE mark on them.

It is tempting to by a cheap US VHF but it is illegal to use in the UK and in any case, uses a different channel system. You can see more detail of this on the channels page.

RYA Safetrx

The RYA Safetrx app has now replaced the Coastguard Form 66 (CG66). The RYA SafeTrx app monitors your boat journeys and alerts emergency contacts should you fail to arrive on time.

RYA SafeTrx app is an app for both Android and Apple iOS smartphones that allows you to track your journey (in UK territorial waters) on your phone.

RYA SafeTrx app provides all recreational boat users, particularly dinghy cruisers, PWC users, RIB users, canoers, kayakers, wind and kite surfers and smaller boat users with an easily accessible and simple to use means that can inform HM Coastguard of their voyage plans and dynamic location in the event of distress.

This app is freely available to anyone who wants to be safer afloat. It is free to download and there is no charge to use it.

See the RYA Safetrx website for more details.


When you use a radio there are rules. A simple version of the 14 rules are shown below:

Rule 1: Identify yourself

Rule 2: Do not use your name to identify yourself

Rule 3: Do not transmit without the authority of the master of the vessel

Rule 4: Do not transmit without the authority of a person with the authority to operate

Rule 5: Do not transmit a false distress call

Rule 6: Do not turn off your radio before finishing all operations resulting for a distress or urgency

Rule 7: Do not broadcast ie. transmitting without expecting a response

Rule 8: Do not make unnecessary transmissions

Rule 9: Do not swear

Rule 10: Only use marine frequencies

Rule 11: Do not broadcast music

Rule 12: Do not transmit a message intended for an address onshore in place of a phone

Rule 13: Do not transmit a message which is intended for a shorebased station

Rule 14: Secrecy – what you hear you must keep secret


The content of these pages is put together in good faith and is constantly evolving. It is possible that errors exist within this content.

If you spot an error or would like to add anything to these pages please contact us via email.

Reading the content of these pages is not a substitute for completing an RYA SRC Course or similar.