Maritime Safety Information (MSI)
Maritime Safety Information which includes both weather information and navigational warnings is broadcast on VHF by the Coastguard Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCC) every three hours.
Maritime Safety Information (MSI) is defined in the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, Chapter IV as comprising “navigational and meteorological warnings, meteorological forecasts and other urgent safety related messages broadcast to ships”.
The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) is the name given to the maritime communication system for all types of vessel to vessel and vessel to shore communication, including routine communications as well as emergency and distress messages.
Within the GMDSS there are two independent systems for broadcasting MSI, the International SafetyNET Service (a system using satellite communications) and the International NAVTEX Service (which is a medium frequency telex system). In addition to meeting its international obligations the UK also currently provides MSI using VHF and MF radiotelephony. Although an increasing number of recreational boaters are choosing to fit NAVTEX, many still rely on VHF for access to MSI whilst on the water.
The content of the VHF and NAVTEX broadcasts for the UK schedule which are issued is published in the MCA’s MSI leaflet.
VHF MSI Broadcasts
An announcement is made on CH 16 as an alert to the broadcast, detailing the channel that should be selected – this information is also published in the MSI leaflet.
The content of the broadcast that follows (Routine A, B or C) will vary depending on the time of day it is being transmitted.
NAVTEX MSI Broadcasts
The information that the UK is required by international convention to transmit is issued on 518kHz backed up by further useful information on 490kHz such as actual weather conditions as recorded by selected weather stations around the UK coast. Details can be found in the MCA MSI leaflet.
Navigational warnings (WZ) for NAVAREA1 and the UK Coast can also be obtained from the UKHO web-site. Many of these warnings are of a temporary nature, but others may remain in force for several weeks and may be superseded by Notices to Mariners.
Rig moves and pipe laying operations have been deemed to be sufficiently visible by sight, by radar and through local navigation warnings, therefore these will not be included with the VHF MSI broadcasts (NAVTEX remains unchanged).
VHF Channel changes coming in 2017
Boat owners, shipping companies and anyone who puts out to sea are being informed about a change in some of the VHF channel numbers used to contact UK Coastguard.
As a result of changes to Appendix 18 (Marine VHF) of the Radio Regulations it will mean that VHF channels 23, 84 and 86 will no longer be used for either Maritime Safety Information (MSI) or Radio Medical Advice.
The channels to use from September 2017 will be VHF 62, 63 and 64. The use of VHF Channel 10 for MSI and pollution control (back up) is unchanged.
Mark Lawson from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency said: ‘Although it’s not happening until September, when it happens the changeover will be absolute and we want to make people aware of this changeover in good time given our commitment to deliver maritime safety and wider support to the maritime community.
Details can be found in the MCA MSI leaflet.