Boat owners in the United Kingdom holding a VHF radio licence must ensure compliance with the new licence conditions introduced by Ofcom.
The new licence conditions have been introduced by Ofcom due to concerns about the risk of exposure to electromagnetic field (EMF) emissions which are transmitted by all radio equipment. This change in licence conditions affects boat owners using radio, radar and other emergency alerting equipment on UK vessels.
For most radio equipment, Ofcom requires existing licence holders to have assessed compliance with the new licence conditions by 18 November 2021 (except for HF/ SSB transmitters for which the effective date is 22 May 2022). This assessment is a fairly simple process for most leisure marine installations of Radio Frequency (RF) equipment.
Cruising Association Guidance
The Cruising Association Regulations and Technical Services (RATS) group has produced guidance to support its members and other boat owners in assessing on board radio equipment to ensure conformance to Ofcom’s policy for limiting exposure of the public to electro-magnetic emissions.
VHF Radio licence holders will have received communications from Ofcom informing them of the EMF Compliance and Enforcement, including the requirement for licensees to provide evidence that their installation does not exceed the general public safety limits for EMF. The details are published in the Ofcom documents 'Electromagnetic fields (EMF)' and 'Ofcom’s EMF licence condition – What you need to know as a ship radio licensee'.
Cruising Association Assessment Template
In supporting its members and other boat owners, the Cruising Association has developed a simple assessment template for use by VHF Radio licensees which is based on the EMF calculator provided by Ofcom.
As part of its leading role within the cruising community, working on behalf of and supporting yacht and motor cruisers on legislative and regulation matters, the Cruising Association is pleased to make its guidance and assessment template available both to our members and other boat owners.
Whichever assessment template licensees use, all licensees need to complete an assessment and keep a copy on their vessel.
When using the Cruising Association template, licensees should enter the equipment requiring assessment, which is typically only your fixed VHF radio and radar installation, and the template explains the compliance actions, if any, that you need to take.
- Typical sailing yacht with VHF and radar mounted on the mast - the only compliance action licensees need to take is to prevent any transmission occurring if a crew member is climbing the mast.
- Vessels with a cabin-mounted or pushpit-mounted VHF antenna - licensees will have to warn their crew to abide by the distance separation requirements as per the RATS assessment template. The separation required depends on how much you transmit, but if you are transmitting for 25% of any six-minute period the distance is 1.1m. However, compliance does not apply if you are transmitting in any kind of emergency situation.
- Vessels with HF/SSB radio - licensees will have to be more careful as these radios transmit at higher powers (150W). However, Ofcom has allowed more time for compliance for HF/SSB radios with compliance required by 18 May 2022 for transmissions in the range 10-110MHz and by 18 November 2022 for transmissions below 10Mhz.
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Discover more about the work of the CA Regulations and Technical Services (RATS) group
29 October 2021
The Regulations and Technical Services group (RATS) is an executive committee of the Cruising Association (CA) made up of CA volunteers. RATS gives advice and assistance to CA members and others on a voluntary basis but this is subject to the following Disclaimer and should not be regarded as a substitute for appropriate professional advice.
Any advice has been prepared voluntarily by the Cruising Association, its members and others, and they and it have tried to ensure that the contents are accurate. However, the Cruising Association, its employees, contributors and relevant members shall not be liable for any loss, damage or inconvenience of any kind howsoever arising in connection with the use of such advice, save to the extent required by law.