Easy Long-Distance Monitoring Of Maritime Mobile Voice Channels Landlocked? Not A Problem—You Can Still Tune Ship Traffic, Weather Nets, And Distress Calls Coming In From Thousands Of Miles Away

by Gordon West, WB6NOA


Skywave single-sideband reception of the marine radio frequencies is a 24/7 catch. At night, tune in from 2 MHz to 8 MHz to hear everything from shrimp boats to super tankers. In the mornings, tune 8 MHz and 12 MHz for roll call weather reports. And during the day, 12- and 16-MHz marine channels are full of activity, including hair-raising distress calls. For the ham "floaters," licensed amateur radio operators plying the high seas, tune 14.300 upper sideband and sail along with high seas skywave action. It's easy, it's exciting, and it’s tunable from anywhere in the country! The Who, Where, And What Of The Marine Bands Long-range ocean voyagers do not need a ham radio license for unlimited access to their international single-sideband marine channels. With the diversity and shear volume of radio traffic on the airwaves, there's no lack of fascinating communications to listen to. For reception anywhere in the country, you can start by monitoring the frequencies given in the "Marine Band Channels" chart. That ought to keep you busy for quite a while! At each MHz band, maritime frequencies have been allocated on an international basis. A commercial ship or private sailboat will use most of the same marine channels throughout a global voyage. Two-MHz channels are assigned regionally, and here in the United States, mariners have additional 4-MHz and 8-MHz SSB channels shared with the Fixed Service. No licensing FCC exam is required to obtain a Ship Station License and the Restricted Radiotelephone Operator permit to operate medium-power marine SSB gear. The FCC Ship Station License callsign consists of 3 letters and 4 numbers, and is valid
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NEWSWORTHY
Washington Beat
Capitol Hill And FCC Actions Affecting Communications

by Richard Fisher, KI6SN

APCO Implements EmComm Restoration Plan In Haiti
A Haitian emergency communications restoration plan by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International was implemented in mid-February when "telecommunications operators unilaterally turned on their 1-1-4 emergency call system and rerouted traffic to the secondary public safety answering point (PSAP) managed by the Haitian National Police (HNP) at their Patco Police Headquarters," APCO reported on its website. "Following the earthquake on Jan. 12, the two known Haitian PSAPs that answered 1-1-4 were reportedly destroyed," the organization said. "The Haitian National Police Land Mobile Radio (LMR) system, which consists of a threesite trunked system, was also largely damaged and much of the supporting wire line infrastructure destroyed." APCO said its plan “not only covers an immediate phased approach to a solution, but includes recommended long-term support and training for the Haitian people. The restoration plan was vetted by the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security National Communications System and the State Department USAID and acted upon by the Haitian government, implementing the first phase of APCO International's recommended restoration."
Spectrum: Wireless Applications In TV "White Space" Tested in North Carolina
Frequencies vacated when television broadcast channels made the switch from analog to digital in 2009 are being utilized for wireless applications in areas of North Carolina. Wilmington and the county region of New Hanover are among the first communities to test applications using TV white space technology. According to a story by Marguerite Reardon for CNET. com, "the city and county have partnered with TV Band Service and Spectrum Bridge to launch a new experimental network that uses white space spectrum to provide wireless connectivity to surveillance cameras and environmental sensors in a 'smart city' deployment." One application provides links for traffic cameras to provide traffic monitoring for the department of transportation. In another application, "white space spectrum is being used to wirelessly connect cameras in city parks to police for surveillance. Radios are also set up in city parks to provide free Wi-Fi access to residents and city workers," Reardon wrote. In a third, "the city and county are using the white space network to remotely monitor and manage wetland areas to comply with EPA regulations."
Spectrum: FCC Grants Waiver For Robotics In 430-448 MHz Band
The FCC has granted a waiver to a Minneapolisbased company for operation of a surveillance robot using frequencies in the 430-448 MHz band—spectrum allocated to the Amateur Radio Service and the Federal Government Radiolocation Service. According to a report in the American Radio Relay League's ARRL Letter, ReconRobotics in January 2008 "filed a request with the FCC for a waiver of Part 90 of the Commission's Rules with respect to the Recon Scout—a remote-controlled, maneuverable surveillance robot designed for use in areas that may be too hazardous for human entry. "A waiver is required to permit licensing of the Recon Scout because the device operates in the 430–448 MHz band, which is allocated to the Federal Government Radiolocation service on a primary basis," the League report said, "as well as the Amateur Radio Service and certain non-federal radiolocation systems on a secondary basis. More than two years later, the FCC [has] granted the waiver request in the form of an Order (WP Docket No 08-63), subject to certain conditions." In May 2008, the ARRL called on the FCC to deny ReconRobotics' waiver request, "either permanently or even temporarily." The FCC noted that the comments it received generally consisted "of public safety and law enforcement entities supporting the waiver request, and amateur radio operators opposing it."
Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Act Of 2009 Garners House Support
A Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives has pledged his support of the Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Act of 2009, bringing to 34 the number of co-sponsors of the legislation, designated HR 2160. Jo Bonner (R-AL-1) joined other members of Congress in backing the bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX-18) and written to "promote and encourage the valuable public service, disaster relief, and emergency communications provided on a volunteer basis” by radio amateurs "by undertaking a study of the uses of amateur radio for emergency and disaster relief communications, by identifying unnecessary or unreasonable impediments to the deployment of Amateur Radio emergency and disaster relief communications, and by making recommendations for relief of such unreasonable restrictions so as to expand the uses of amateur radio communications in Homeland Security planning and response."
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BROADCASTING
Global Information Guide
Surrogates In Pakistan And Iran, Radio Prague Still Stirring, And More

by Gerry L. Dexter
gdex@wi.rr.com

"Unfortunately, working in shortwave broadcasting can still prove hazardous to your health, especially if you find yourself involved with a surrogate, clandestine-opposition-target broadcaster." You may have run across a strange new broadcast recently. Radio Mashaal, a division of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, is a new surrogate broadcaster beamed to Pakistan, especially the Al Qaeda and Taliban-infected areas of the Northwest Frontier Province and the so-called tribal areas along the border with Pakistan. According to the station, there are hundreds of illegal radio stations in the area busily calling for all sorts of mayhem. Radio Marshaal's mission is to combat that through its programming, which is expected to reach nine hours per day by September. We don't yet have any information as to what frequencies or sites are being used for the service. It will broadcast using the oft-employed line-up of local FM, shortwave, satellites and the Internet. Unfortunately, working in shortwave broadcasting can still prove hazardous to your health, especially if you find yourself involved with a surrogate, clandestine-opposition-target broadcaster. Through the years there have been arrests, imprisonments, beatings, and in at least one case, a murder. Most recently, the AP reports that seven people working for Radio Farda have been arrested by Iranian authorities, accused of spying and contributing to the demonstrations against the government there. Radio Farda is a U.S.-sponsored surrogate broadcaster that beams programming in Farsi to Iran. Give yourself a pat on the back if you were one of the people who wrote to Radio Prague, encouraging it to continue on shortwave. Late word is that it plans to do so, although another slice in its budget will mean some minor cutbacks. In the same vein, Radio Slovakia International, which was also under the gun, has worked out a deal with the Slovak Culture Ministry to continue on shortwave for another five years. The station will maintain broadcasts in half a dozen foreign languages. World Christian Broadcasting, which owns KNLS in Alaska, says construction of its new station in Madagascar, to be named Madagascar World Voice, is proceeding on schedule. Currently, 500-kW generators are installed on site and the station's three 100-kW transmitters are in process. Christian Vision (CVC) has closed its Darwin, Australia, site, which it acquired from the Australian government only a few years ago. The long-term survival of the facility is up in the air and its fate unknown. If you still have Voice of America languages or services you want to add to your log, you had better get busy. I hear that there is much unpleasantness ahead, coming in the form of significant and damaging cutbacks.
Reader Logs
Remember, your shortwave broadcast station logs are always welcome. But please be sure to double or triple space between the items, list each logging according to its home country, and include your last name and state abbreviation after each. Also needed are spare QSLs or good copies you don't need returned, station schedules, brochures, pennants, station photos, and anything else you think would be of interest to other SWBC DXers. I am still waiting for your shack photo! You are well past your deadline! Here are this month's logs. All times are UTC. Double capital letters are language abbreviations Click here to subscribe!