FCC Commercial Licenses for Marine Professionals & Leisure Radio Operators in the United States
Established in 1934, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States' primary authority for communications law, regulation and technological innovation.
The FCC's rules and regulations are in Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which are published and maintained by the Government Printing Office. The FCC issues the several types of commercial operator marine licenses and endorsements.
FCC rules require that licensees of ship and aircraft stations permit only persons holding the appropriate FCC-issued commercial operator license to perform specified transmitter operation, maintenance and repair duties.
You need a commercial operator license to operate, and/or to repair and maintain, specified ship, and aircraft radio communication stations. To obtain a new or upgraded FCC commercial operator license, you must pass an examination administered by one of the Commercial Operator License Examination Managers (COLEMs).
FCC Marine Radio Licenses
Marine Radio License - Pleasure Craft
- Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit (RR): RR holders are authorized to operate most aircraft and aeronautical ground stations. They can also operate marine radiotelephone stations aboard pleasure craft (other than those carrying more than six passengers for hire on the Great Lakes or bays or tidewaters or in the open sea) when operator licensing is required.
- Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit-Limited Use (RL): An RL generally authorizes the same privileges as a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit (RR), but is issued only to persons who are NOT legally eligible for employment in the United States. However, if your eligibility for an RL is based on your holding of a valid FCC radio station license, then the RL authorizes you to operate only your licensed radio station, and no other radio station.
Marine Radio License - Professional
- Marine Radio Operator Permit (MP): MPs are required to operate radiotelephone stations aboard certain vessels that sail the Great Lakes. They are also required to operate radiotelephone stations aboard vessels of more than 300 gross tons and vessels which carry more than six passengers for hire in the open sea or any tidewater area of the United States. They are also required to operate certain aviation radiotelephone stations and certain coast radiotelephone stations.
- General Radiotelephone Operator License (PG): A PG is required to adjust, maintain, or internally repair FCC licensed radiotelephone transmitters in the aviation, maritime, and international fixed public radio services. It conveys all of the operating authority of the MP. It is also required to operate - any compulsorily equipped ship radiotelephone station operating with more than 1500 watts of peak envelope power; and voluntarily equipped ship and aeronautical (including aircraft) stations with more than 1000 watts of peak envelope power.
- GMDSS Radio Operator's License (DO): The DO qualifies the holder to operate, and make some basic equipment adjustments to, Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) radio installations. It also confers the operating authority of the MP.
- Restricted GMDSS Radio Operator's License (RG): The RG qualifies the holder to operate, and make some basic equipment adjustments to, Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) radio installations, but only on voyages that remain within twenty (20) nautical miles of shore. It also confers the operating authority of the MP.
- GMDSS Radio Maintainer's License (DM): The DM qualifies personnel as GMDSS radio maintainers to perform at sea repair and maintenance of GMDSS equipment. It also confers the operating authority of the PG and MP.
- GMDSS Radio Operator/Maintainer License (DB): The DB confers the operating authority of the DO and the DM (and, by extension, it also confers the operating authority of the PG and MP).
- Third Class Radiotelegraph Operator's Certificate (T3): The T3 authorizes operation of certain coast radiotelegraph stations. It also confers the operating authority of the MP.
- Second Class Radiotelegraph Operator's Certificate (T2): The T2 authorizes the holder to operate, repair, and maintain ship stations, and to repair and maintain coast radiotelegraph stations in the maritime services. It also confers all of the operating authority of the T3 and MP.
- First Class Radiotelegraph Operator's Certificate (T1): A T1 is required only for those who serve as the chief radio operator on a U.S. passenger ship equipped with a radiotelegraph station. It also conveys all of the operating authority of a T2.
- Radiotelegraph Operator License (T): The T authorizes the holder to operate, repair, and maintain ship stations, and to repair and maintain coast radiotelegraph stations in the maritime services. It also confers all of the operating authority of a T2.
Marine Radio License Endorsements
- Ship Radar Endorsement: Only persons whose commercial radio operator license bears this endorsement may repair, maintain, or internally adjust ship radar equipment.
- Six Month Service Endorsement: A Six-Month Service Endorsement must be obtained by any holder of a T, T1 or T2 who wishes to serve as the sole radio operator on board a large U.S. cargo ship sailing on the high seas.
For FCC License study guides and license examinations go to - Mariners Learning System