VHF scandal, all to Rome (at our expense) so we can mash a red button


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Will we all be forced to go to Rome in order to press a red button? It would seem so, after the Ministry of Transport prepared a proxy law that will initiate the mandatory adoption of Vhf equipment with DSC (the red location and distress key, which overlaps with the already mandatory Gps and Epirb equipment) for vessels sailing beyond thirty miles from the coast. Too bad that in order to use DSC (Digital Selective Calling) you need to have taken a course, in Rome of course (We first reported this some time ago).

Yet another piece of fluff legislation perpetrated by a government that doesn’t seem to understand anything about boating, and continues to do damage by considering boats and ships equally. Already, the ignorance of our rulers is “linguistic” in nature and actually equates boaters with marine professionals (who are rightly licensed and specialized). Think about it: it’s like the Ministry of Transportation waking up one day and deciding that regular drivers should take courses and get truck driver’s licenses. All of this is in the face with the enabling act to reform the Boating Code-voted unanimously by Parliament-which provides for “the simplification of the requirements placed on users” and “the simplification of the administrative regime of recreational boating.”

Controversy, of course, was not slow to erupt; even Facebook groups such asJulemanidallanauticasprang up.

But what is the purpose of DSC? Just press the red DSC button that says “Distress” which in Italian means “danger, difficulty, emergency” to automatically launch a distress call (Securite/Pan-Pan/May Day) that is received by all ships and shore stations that can be reached by the VHF signal (about 25 miles under optimal conditions). Thanks to this rescue system, which operates on digital channel 70 reserved exclusively for these calls, without any manual intervention the type of boat, GPS location, time of the call, and type of request are communicated to rescuers, to which a voice message can also be added.

All beautiful and most of all very useful. Too bad this service practically can’t be used. Or rather, in order to use it any yachtsman has to go through such a bureaucratic rigmarole, resulting in costs and loss of entire days, that he ends up, rightly so, not using it. Or he uses it anyway, not giving a damn about the regulations but is subject to heavy fines. And yes, because the very useful DSC system can still be used, in defiance of bureaucracy, simply by having the code MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) i.e., unique 9-digit number that identifies one’s boat and useful for making automated calls as well, sending one’s identity and addressing specific messages to known recipients, or recognizing stations that eventually call or answer.

But even here for those flying the Italian flag, we get stuck in the meshes of bureaucracy unlike, for example, those flying the Belgian flag who have it delivered to their homes without any rigmarole. To obtain the MMSI, those flying the Italian flag must make an application to the relevant Ministry (Economic Development, who knows why) complete with a revenue stamp (to download it, here is the Internet address: http://www.sviluppoeconomico.gov.it/ images/stories/documents/mmsinew.pdf. Even easier if you have an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) because you should already then have your boat’s MMSI ID, which is needed to activate the instrument.

Below, we explain how to use, without the need for any course the DSC, comparing it with the VHF channel 16 distress call. But if you don’t want to risk getting a ticket in the unfortunate possibility of having to use the red “Distress” button on the DSC to call for help, you have to get into the meshes of bureaucracy and red tape. In fact, to be in good standing you must take a special course to learn how to use the DSC and take an exam to obtain the SRC (Short Range Certificate). The location of the exam is only in Rome, and there you have to go to take the exam (Ministry of Economic Development, DGSCERP-Division 3-GMDSS Examination Commission- Viale America, 201-00144 Rome- tel. 06 5444.2819): info about the exam can be found this link.

Of course, there are special nautical schools and associations that for modest sums of 100 to 300 euros prepare you for the exam. But there is also the usual loophole of not having to travel to Rome, we repeat only location to take the exam to use without incurring fines the DSC. It is enough, for example, to enroll in a course organized at locations closer to one’s residence with the issuance of a license to use the DSC, or SRC (Short Range Certificate), English (UK MCA) equally valid even if one flies any flag of any nation in the world, including Italy. But the cost of these certificate courses are not given away for free, minimum you spend around 150 euros. Moral of the story: this is why many experts advise risking getting a fine by equally activating the DSC in case of a distress call for one’s boat in case of a serious dangerous situation. So much for bureaucracy.

To add to the discussion of VHF and bureaucracy, we remind you that to use VHF on board you must become an experienced radio operator…without taking any exams. You must have the “Limited Radiotelephone Operator Certificate,” a “patent” issued by the regional offices of the Ministry of Communications. It does not expire, so it is not subject to renewal. If you talk to other boats with the VHF you would also need to have an operating license ” Rtf license”, the application, accompanied by the declaration of conformity of the equipment (the manufacturer provides it to you) should be made out to the Regional Communications Inspectorate. Another complication!



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