Digitalisation of VHF radio

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Communication between ships and shore has taken place traditionally through the use of VHF radio. VHF radio equipment is used for  shipping both at sea and inland. Over  the years, the use of VHF radio,  and the wish to communicate and be sure that your message is received and understood, has grown. Digitisation in other areas of communication has improved the way to communicate (GSM, LTE etc). But, in the marine bands the introduction of new digital communication channels for data has put pressure on the availability of VHF voice channels.

With the introduction of VDES (VHF Data Exchange System) a problem arises that this would not be an easy task for The Netherlands to contend with. The ITU (International Telecommunication Union) has taken the decision that the frequencies for VDES are available from 1st of January 2017 in the World Radio Conference of 2015. Because The Netherlands has foreseen the same problems as they encountered they sent in a paper to MSC97 to raise awareness of this problem. Due to this, IMO (International Maritime Organisation) agreed that from 1st of January 2024 these frequencies should be freed by Contracting States and VDES could then use these frequencies. In the World Radio Conference of 2019 ITU also decided on the use of frequencies for VDES satellite communication.

For situational awareness it is commonly known that eye-sight, VHF radio and radar are the main tools to accomplish this. Since 2003 AIS was added to add additional information to the radar or ECS/ECDIS. The main purpose is collision avoidance.

These pages are intended to inform about candidate technologies, new or changed functionality and a possible migration path. But will be extended if necessary.