Coast Radio Stations
The FCC licenses coast radio stations in the maritime mobile service
to provide for a variety of distress, navigational, business, and personal communications needs of vessels. These land stations in the marine services are the links between vessels at sea and activities ashore. They are spread throughout the coastal and inland areas of the United States to carry radio signals and messages to and from ships on the water. These stations are generally characterized by the services they provide.
Types of Stations
Public coast stations are an integral part of the Maritime Services, and traditionally have served the maritime community as commercial mobile radio service providers, permitting ships to send and receive messages and to interconnect with the public switched telephone network. VHF public coast stations were established to serve port and coastal areas using 156-162 MHz band frequencies that are allocated internationally for maritime service, and generally provide short-range communications for vessels not more than 30 nautical miles from shore. High seas public coast stations may use low frequency (.100-.160 MHz), medium frequency (.405-.525 and 2 MHz), and high frequency (HF) (4, 6, 8, 12, 16, 18/19, 22, and 25/26 MHz) band frequencies to serve vessels on the high seas, often hundreds or even thousands of miles from land. In addition to providing needed services for a fee, public coast stations have obligations to monitor distress frequencies and to relay messages free of charge to search and rescue personnel. VHF public coast stations also may provide private radio service under certain circumstances, and have limited authority to provide service to units on land. High seas public coast stations are not permitted to serve units on land. A VHF public coast station licensee (but not a high seas public coast station licensee) may lease all or part of the spectrum usage rights associated with the license.
Automated Maritime Telecommunications System (AMTS) stations are a special type of public coast station. The AMTS service was established in 1981 as an alternative to traditional VHF public coast service, primarily to meet the specialized needs of tugs, barges, and other commercial vessels on inland waterways. AMTS stations, which use 217/219 MHz frequencies, were intended primarily to provide public correspondence service to such vessels, but in an integrated manner not readily available from individual VHF public coast stations. AMTS public coast stations also may provide private radio service under certain circumstances, and have limited authority to provide service to units on land. An AMTS licensee may lease all or part of the spectrum usage rights associated with the license.
Private coast stations are not common carriers -- they cannot charge for communications services. Instead, they provide information to associated vessels. Only those entities that provide some sort of service to vessels or control a bridge or waterway may become a private coast station licensee. Some common uses of private coast stations include: marinas, radio repair shops, bridges, locks, and yacht clubs.
Marine utility stations are hand-held radios operating at ten watts or less. Marine utility stations provide similar types of services to vessels as are provided by private coast stations. The station operates under the rules applicable to ship stations when the unit is aboard a vessel, and under the rules applicable to private coast stations when the unit is on land.
Alaska public fixed stations provide communications for safety and public correspondence like public coast stations, but they serve Alaskan communities exclusively.
Alaska private fixed stations provide point-to-point and coast-to-ship communications in Alaska. They are not common carriers and may not charge for service.
Radar stations on land are used mostly to locate and track vessels in coastal and inland waters. Some radars also serve as navigational fixes for vessels in their range.
Radiobeacons/RACONS emit a constant radio signal from fixed locations on land, like lighthouses, or from buoys in the water, for navigational reference.