They fine me for Vhf, but they don’t know how to bring me into compliance

One of our readers bitterly discovers during a Guardia di Finanza check last summer in Ponza that he has an expired Operating License (RTF) for the use of the onboard VHF. Here’s how to renew it to avoid heavy penalties.


Those who enjoy going to sea in Italy soon discover how incredibly bureaucratic, foggy in regulations and not very up-to-date our country is even in nautical matters. Among the subjects where this phenomenon is even more evident is the use of onboard VHF and related operating licenses. In recent days, yet another testimony from a distraught reader of ours arrived in our newsroom after a Finance Guard inspection, which we report in full:

Checking at sea in summer and a hefty penalty

“Good morning, I am writing to describe an incident that happened to me last summer and is a warning to all boaters. On July 28, I was anchored in the afternoon in Cala Frontone on the island of Ponza. About 200 meters away from me was a large dark dinghy with a few people on board. After about an hour the dinghy moves and pulls me over: “Guardia di Finanza for a documentary check,” the two marshals on board, a Brigadier and a Financial Officer, intimated. I specify that I have owned this boat for 12 years and will have been inspected for at least 8 years without ever being challenged. This time I am being challenged for not renewing my Radio Apparatus Operating License. I confess that I did not know that the license must be renewed every 10 years. A “Dispute Report” is then prepared in which I state that I will immediately renew my license.

I am asked to send a copy of the renewal application to an email from their Gaeta office. I ask for instructions about how and to whom to send the application. They don’t know! The younger marshal suggests that I go to the website of the Ministry of Economic Development (Mise). I think I got away with it. Once I return, I copy the renewal format from the Mise website and send the relevant office the documentation. After a few weeks, my documentation is returned to me because according to a recent provision, the application must be submitted either through the Diportist Desk or through an authorized agency. So on the Ministry website the instructions are outdated! I entrust the practice to an agency.

On October 25, I am summoned to a Guardia di Finanza barracks where I am handed a “Dispute and Notification Report” bearing an “Administrative Penalty” in the reduced amount of 600 euros! Six hundred euros for a renewal without a functionality check, in short a mere bureaucratic check.

I think it is appropriate for your editorial staff to remind its readers of the 10-year renewal of the useless license. I told my boating friends about the episode, and no one, like me, knew they had to renew their license.

Sincerely.” Enzo Avallone

The law, it is known, does not admit ignorance, but to discover one’s failure in this way, with a penalty that is at least disproportionate, and especially to be left at the mercy of the institutions, as happened to Mr. Avallone is very frustrating. To him goes all our sympathy.


What the Boating Code says about Vhf.

Therefore, we take up his invitation to remind all sailors of what is currently provided for in the Italian boating regulations regarding Vhf and related RTF License (Radioelectric Operation License). First, let us recall that the regulation of on-board two-way radio equipment, including Vhf, is contained in Art. 29 of the Nautical Code according to which Vhf transceiver equipment is mandatory on board of recreational vessels sailing beyond 6 miles from the coast, as moreover confirmed in the “table” of life-saving means and safety equipment at V of the Regulations to the code.

In order to use a Vhf device, it must have a Radiotelephone Operator’s Limited Certificate, a kind of “patent” and Operating License (RTF), both issued by the Ministry of Economic Development (Mise).


A Ministerial Decree of 2013 introduced the deadline

The whole matter regarding precisely the Operating License (RTF) was amended by a special Ministerial Decree by the Ministry of Economic Development (Mise) that came into force on April 4, 2013 and was published in Official Gazette No. 88 of April 15, 2013 under the title “Regulations on the Application for Issuance, Renewal and Updating of Operating License and for the Transfer of Management between Companies Entrusted with On-Board Radio Stations.”

According to the new Decree in Articles 2, 3 and 4, the Operating License (RTF) expires after 10 years and must be renewed when the term expires. As well as must be renewed in case of change of ownership of the vessel and updated in case of:

  • change of unit name
  • change in port of entry
  • variation of the matriculation number
  • addition or replacement of apparatus

The lack of awareness on the part of many owners who are not up-to-date with the new regulations stems from the fact that while the 10-year expiration of the RTF License is highlighted on all new certificates issued after 2013, it is not mentioned on documents issued before that date. However, nothing in the Decree hints at any penalties for non-renewal, nor on the renewal procedure.


How to Renew Expired Operating License (RTF)

In order to obtain the renewal of the Operating License (RTF), it is necessary to apply to the Ministry of Economic Development and specifically to the Territorial Inspectorate having jurisdiction over the place where the applicant has residence. In a special section of the official website of the Ministry of Economic Development, the appropriate form can be downloaded.

The documents to be attached to the application for renewal of the Operating License (RTF) are:

  • Photocopy of a valid photo ID;
  • Envelope size 16.2×22.9 cm with the applicant’s address written on it and pre-stamped for 7.40 euros needed to send the license by registered mail. If you pick up your license at the counter the envelope is not required;
  • Declaration of conformity and notification of placing on the Italian market prescribed by Directive 1999/05/EC and/or declaration of conformity to Directive 96/98/EC (if applicable) and/or equipment type approval certificate;
  • Photocopy of the pages of the recreational boating license containing ship data, owner data and user data.
  • Two additional revenue stamps (one for the provisional operating license, issued upon request by the Coast Guard, and one for the permanent operating license).

For more information, we recommend consulting the website of the Ministry of Economic Development regarding the Maritime Radioelectric Service.



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