Select Page

How to send and receive emergency radio calls

In an emergency situation at sea, it is a top priority is to know how to send and receive emergency radio calls and alert others of your predicament. Likewise, if you receive a distress signal, you must be ready to go to the help of others.

What exactly is meant by “Distress”? Distress means that a vessel or person is in grave and imminent danger and immediate assistance is needed. Under these circumstances, a MAYDAY should be sent without delay.

Note: Distress does not apply to a vessel broken down or a minor injury. Under these circumstances call the Coastguard or broadcast an urgency call (PAN PAN) on the VHF radio.

MAYDAY Distress Call

If a vessel or person is in grave and imminent danger and immediate assistance is required:

  • Check that your VHF radio is on and high power setting is selected.
  • Select Channel 16 (or 2182kHz for MF).
  • Press the transmit button and say slowly and clearly:

“MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY”

“THIS IS… “(say the name of your vessel 3 times.  Say your MMSI number and call sign).

“MAYDAY, THIS IS…”(say name of vessel).

“MY POSITION IS…”(latitude and longitude, true bearing and distance from a know point, or general direction).

“I AM…” (say nature of distress eg SINKING, ON FIRE).

“I REQUIRE IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE”.

“I HAVE…”(say number of persons on board PLUS any other useful information – such as sinking, flares fired, abandoning to liferaft).

“OVER”.

  • Now release transmit button and listen for reply.
  • Keep listening to Channel 16 for instructions.
  • If you hear nothing then repeat the distress call.

Vessels with GMDSS equipment should make a MAYDAY call by voice on Ch 16 or MF 2182 kHz after sending a DSC Distress alert on VHF Ch 70 or MF 2187.5 kHz.

DSC Radio Emergency Procedure

  • In an emergency, press the DSC radio’s red button for 15 seconds and then transmit a voice message on Channel 16.
  • Prepare for sending/receiving subsequent distress traffic on the distress traffic frequency (2182 kHz on MF, Ch16 on VHF).
  • NOTE: The nature of distress can be selected from the DSC radio receiver’s menu.

MAYDAY Acknowledgement

In coastal waters immediate acknowledgement should be given by coastguard stations as follows:

“MAYDAY…” (name of vessel sending distress said 3 times).

“THIS IS… “(name of coastguard station, said 3 times).

“RECEIVED MAYDAY”.

If you hear a distress message and the Coastguard has not responded, write down the details and acknowledge the vessel in distress.

MAYDAY Relay

If you hear a distress message from a vessel and it has not been acknowledged, you should pass on the message as follows:

“MAYDAY RELAY…” (say 3 times).

“THIS IS… “(name of your vessel, said 3 times. FOLLOWED BY the original message).

MAYDAY Radio Silence

As soon as a MAYDAY call is heard all vessels should keep radio silence until the Coastguard or other authority cancels the Distress. The Coastguard may issue the follow message on the distress frequency:

“SEELONCE MAYDAY…” (followed by the name of the station).

When radio silence is no longer necessary on the Distress frequency, the controlling station may relax radio silence as follows:

“MAYDAY ALL STATIONS, ALL STATIONS, ALL STATIONS”.

“THIS IS… “(name of station).

“The time….”.

“The name of the vessel in distress….”.

“PRUDONCE”.

When the Distress is over, the controlling station cancels the radio silence as follows:

“MAYDAY ALL STATIONS, ALL STATIONS, ALL STATIONS”.

“THIS IS… “(name of station).

“The time….”.

“The name of the vessel in distress….”.

“SEELONCE FEENEE”.

PAN PAN Urgency Call

If a vessel or person very urgently needs assistance but is not in grave and imminent danger, then the PAN PAN urgency call should be used.

Vessels with GMDSS equipment should make a PAN PAN call by voice onCh 16 or MF 2182 kHz. after sending a DSC urgency call alert on distress alert frequencies VHF Ch 70 or MF 2187.5 kHz.

Vessels with DSC/ VHF radios should proceed as follows:

  • Check that your radio is on and high power setting is selected.
  • Select Channel 16 (or 2182 kHz for MF).
  • Press the transmit button and say slowly and clearly:

“PAN PAN, PAN PAN, PAN PAN”.

“ALL STATIONS, ALL STATIONS, ALL STATIONS”.

“THIS IS… “(say the name of your vessel 3 times. Say your MMSI number and call sign).

“MY POSITION IS…”(latitude and longitude, true bearing and distance from a know point, or general direction).

“I AM…” (say nature of distress eg DISMASTED, BROKEN RUDDER).

“I REQUIRE…” (eg a tow).

“I HAVE…”(say number of persons on board).

“OVER”.

  • Now release transmit button and listen for reply.
  • Keep listening to Channel 16 for instructions.
  • If you hear nothing then repeat the PAN PAN call
  • NOTE: The nature of distress can be selected from the DSC radio receiver’s menu

If you hear an Urgency call from another vessel you should follow the same radio procedure as for a MAYDAY distress call.

SECURITÉ Safety Call

A Securité safety call, normally transmitted by a Coast Radio Station or the Coastguard, usually contains important safety information such as navigational warnings and weather information. The radio station announces the call on Ch 16 or MF 2182 kHz and then issues instructions for listeners to change frequency, where the information will shortly be given.

A Securité call is given as follows:

“SECURITÉ, SECURITÉ, SECURITÉ”.

“THIS IS… “(Coastguard or coast radio station callsign, said three times).

“ALL STATIONS, ALL STATIONS, ALL STATIONS” (said three times, followed by instructions to change channel to listen to the message).

Note: while most Securité calls are issued by coastal stations, vessels who have an urgent message for other vessels may also make Securité calls (for example if a vessel spots a semi-submerged container in the water, i.e. a danger to shipping).

Rudders and steering systems – Part 2

One thing all rudders have in common is that they have three main parts that need to be checked: the rudder, or a steerable drive leg in the case of many power boats; the system that joins the rudder to the steering; the steering control itself.

Antifouling for leisure boats – Part 1

Boats that are kept afloat can very quickly become a home for small marine organisms such as barnacles, weed and slime. Applying an antifouling paint to your hull is necessary to protect it from these micro-organisms, as a fouled hull can cause problems and will slow down a boat’s maximum speed considerably if left unchecked.

Stern gear maintenance

The stern gear of a boat needs to be checked carefully when the boat is ashore as this is something that can only be done when it is out of the water. The same applies for any maintenance and repairs that may need doing, so it is best to check it all over as soon after an end of season lift out as possible.

A simple guide to understanding tides when passage planning

Understanding tides when passage planning When planning a trip in tidal waters, check the tides before going afloat. Use...

Safety at sea principles

Safety at sea is not as simple as just spending money adding shiny new emergency equipment such as liferafts, danbuoys, distress flares, EPIRBs and so on.

Peer to Peer yacht charter – How can you monetize your boat?

There is a growing trend in peer to peer yacht charter. How does it work? People already rent rooms, cars and bikes from one...

Common marine electrical problems

Most problems with marine electrical systems arise from four possible sources, a lack of maintenance, a poor standard of initial installation, insufficient battery capacity, or ineffective charging systems.
Water ingress is a frequent issue – salt water can corrode contacts very quickly. If connections are not scrupulously clean – or are loose – resistance will be increased, resulting in progressively reduced power.

Boat interior inspection and checks

While a boat is ashore, the most critical interior checks to carry out are those that concern the safety of the boat. This entails the integrity of all through-hull fittings and seacocks, the gas system and the electrical system.

Seasickness – how can you prevent it?

Seasickness is a common problem at sea and affects both seasoned sailors and novices. What are the causes and symptoms of seasickness?...

Rudders and steering systems – Part 3

In the third of our three blog articles on rudders and steering systems, we look at how to replace rudder bearings and repair a water-saturated core.

An explanation of the IALA maritime buoyage systems – IALA A and IALA B

What are the differences between the two IALA buoyage systems, IALA Region A and IALA Region B, and where are they used?   As recently as the 1970s...

Marine diesel exhaust checks

You should inspect the exhaust system for corrosion damage regularly, especially around the injection bend. If you have noticed the engine exhaust smoking a lot during the sailing season this can also indicate a number of potential problems.

Sail boat rig checks – Part 2

In part two of Sail boat rig checks we run through some useful rig maintenance tips and then finish with a brief look at what a professional rig check involves.

Always have an emergency grab bag to hand when at sea…

  Grab bag: In the event of having to abandon ship, it is recommended to have a designated waterproof bag to carry...

Boat maintenance log

Keeping a boat maintenance log is an ideal way of reminding owners what needs to be done to a boat and when. Read on for some tips,...

Seized fixings and fastenings

Maintaining a boat can be a rewarding experience but at times it can also be frustrating. A prime example of this is when you come across a seized fixing or fastening that refuses to budge. Read our tips on how to release and fix them:

How a propeller works

Have a look around any boatyard and you will notice quite a variety of propellers – some have two blades, some have three and others have four or more. While most propellers are completely rigid some have blades that fold.

How to use tides and currents to your advantage

If you are contemplating a cruise through tidal waters and strong currents, then planning your trip carefully in advance is essential to enable you to take advantage of favourable tides rather than constantly fighting against them.

Understanding your mast and rigging

The rig of a sailing boat is put under huge stresses and strains so it is important for inspections of a yacht's spars and rigging to be...

Essential Knots: Clove hitch

Essential Knots: Clove hitch Use: Tying a rope to posts, bollards, rings or a guardrail. Step 1. Make a turn around the object and lay...

Dag Pike’s Boat Survey

We're really pleased to be working with Dag Pike on some great new apps for iPhone & Android. Here'a a bit more about the first app: Dag Pike's...

Distress flares – which flare, how & when to use?

How to use distress flares at sea Flares should be kept in a waterproof container in an easily accessible location such as a...

Understanding marine sealants & adhesives

Sealants, adhesives and adhesive sealantsThere is a bewildering variety of sealants, adhesives and even adhesive sealants available for...

Sterndrive maintenance

Sterndrives are a popular form of propulsion in the powerboat market, but require a fair amount of care and maintenance. The main factors to be aware of are salt water corrosion, lubrication and regular inspection of the bellows, the condition of which is vital to prevent water from entering into the hull.

Diesel engine winterisation

An inactive boat engine needs to be protected from corrosion during the winter, caused by the rising humidity levels through the cold months and the salty coastal air. This applies whether the boat is left afloat or hauled out over the winter. Read here about the two important stages of winterisaton for a diesel boat engine.