Marine Radio
in Tasmania

Distress, Urgency and Safety


Radio Distress Procedure

MAYDAY – When the vessel or those aboard are in grave and imminent danger. (For an injured or sick person or a person overboard use the Urgency call by substituting the word Mayday for PAN PAN).

  • Ensure that the VHF is on channel 16 and set at 25 watts high power or if using a MF/HF radio select 2182 kHz or other appropriate distress frequency.

The Distress call and message is:

  • THIS IS (Repeat the vessel’s name three times)
  • MAYDAY (Vessel name spoken once)
  • MY POSITION IS (Latitude and Longitude or True bearing and Distance from a charted feature. Be careful to clearly identify a geographical location as there are numerous places with the same of similar name.)
  • NATURE OF DISTRESS e.g. sinking, on fire, etc
  • OVER

Release the transmit button and wait for acknowledgement.
Keep listening on VHF channel 16 or the selected MF/HF distress frequency for instructions.
If an acknowledgement is not received repeat the distress call.

Other Useful Information

To assist a search and rescue provide any other information that could be useful. The information might include the following:

  • Give your immediate plans
  • Description of vessel
  • What safety equipment is on board
  • Sea state and wind conditions
  • If underway give boat speed and course heading (true)
  • Planned destination.

Man Overboard (MOB), MAYDAY or PAN PAN?

There is much confusion, among recreational mariners, regarding the correct use of radio during Man Overboard (MOB) emergencies at sea. A very useful paper prepared by the Office of Marine Communications at the Australian Maritime College gives a clear explanation on the radio call in a MOB situation. Read the Man Overboard paper here.

MF/HF Radio Distress Frequencies

  •   2182 kHz
  •   4125 kHz
  •   6215 kHz
  •   8291 kHz
  • 12290 kHz
  • 16420 kHz

Safety (Securité) Transmissions

Safety calls are regularly made by coast stations for example, to alert seafarers of strong wind warnings, navigational matters and other issues that could affect the safety of those at sea.

Safety calls are announced by the word Securité usually stated three times and made on a Distress, Urgency and first call frequency noting that the details of the Securité message will be given on a working frequency. If the Safety call is made using a VHF radio that the initial call will be made on Ch16 noting the details of the safety message will be on a working frequency such as Ch72 or other usual working channel.

An example when a safety call could be made can be found here.



Updated 25 July 2017. © Copyright. A Douglas 2017