Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI)

Introduction

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) allocates and issues Maritime Mobile Service Identity's (MMSI) to:

  • Australian vessels and coast stations using Digital Selective Calling (DSC) and Automatic Identification System (AIS),
  • AIS base stations,
  • AIS Aids to Navigation,
  • AIS on SAR aircraft and
  • handheld VHF radios with DSC.

The registration database is held at the Rescue Coordnation Centre (RCC) Australia. The following information is provided as background and to assist in determining whether a vessel or coast station should request an MMSI. All large commercial vessels subject to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention must carry DSC and AIS equipment appropriate to their area of operations. However, small recreational and fishing vessels may not require DSC equipment unless they plan to operate offshore or proceed overseas. Coast stations may also be equipped with DSC, and in this case, also require an MMSI.

Some ports in Australia mandate the carriage by certain types of non-SOLAS vessels working in the port. State marine regulators also mandate AIS in certain types of vessels.

MMSIs are also required for shipborne or non-shipborne Automatic Identification System (AIS)2 transceivers.

  1. Rescue Coordination Centre located in Canberra
  2. Defined in ITU-R Recommendation M.1371

Please contact AMSA for any further information.

Is a call sign or Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) needed?

An MMSI is a unique nine-digit code set into your DSC-capable radio transceiver and/or AIS transceiver to identify your vessel or coast station. You need only one of these if you have multiple fixed DSC radios and/or AIS transceivers. You use the same MMSI for all DSC and AIS transceivers onboard the one vessel as it is a ship's identity. Since marine VHF transceivers now operate under a Class Licence, there is no requirement for an official call sign and maritime ship station licence, but the operator must have a minimum radio operator qualification of a Marine Radio Operator’s VHF Certificate of Proficiency (MROVCP). However, for MF/HF transceivers, Marine Radio Operator’s Certificate of Proficiency (MROCP) is the minimum qualification, as well as a ship station licence (incl. callsign) issued by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Download the brochure Digital Selective Calling - Frequently Asked Questions [pdf iconPDF: 402Kb].

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DSC Identification

To use DSC techniques, an MF/HF DSC, VHF DSC and/or AIS transceiver must be permanently programmed with a unique nine-digit identification number known as the Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI). This can be regarded as the electronic equivalent of a radio call sign and uniquely identifies that ship or coast station. It is important to recognize that the MMSI identifies the vessel or coast station, and if more than one fixed transceiver and/or AIS transceiver is carried they are all to be programmed with the same MMSI. A vessel's 406 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) may also be programmed with the same MMSI. The selling agent can program the MMSI into the transceiver and AIS equipment.

The MMSI is automatically included in all DSC and AIS transmissions from a station and electronically identifies that station to the receiving station(s).

Download the brochure Digital Selective Calling - Frequently Asked Questions [pdf iconPDF: 402Kb].

MMSI Formats

Three of the nine digits of an MMSI identify country of origin. In the case of a coast station these digits indicate the country of location, and in the case of a ship station, the country of registration. The remaining six digits uniquely identify the station itself. The three digits identifying the country are known as the Maritime Identification Digits or MID. Australia's MID is 503.

An Australian vessel MMSI takes the form 503xxxxxxwhere x is any figure from 0 to 9.

An Australian coast station MMSI takes the form 00503xxxx where the first two figures are zero and x is any figure 0 to 9.

A full international list of MIDs appears in List VIIA, List of Callsigns and Numerical Identities published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU),the ITU Manual for use by the Maritime Mobile and Maritime Mobile-Satellite Servicesand the Australian Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) Handbook."

Group MMSIs

Groups of vessels can be called via DSC by a Group ID or Group MMSI. Group MMSIs are finding use by fleets and yacht races. Safety and Urgency DSC calls (“Announcements”) can be sent to a Group MMSI. Each vessel desiring to be part of a Group would enter the same Group MMSI into their DSC equipment, which usually can be named forconvenience by the user.

Group MMSI numbers begin with a single 0 before the MID, so it takes the form 0503xxxxx(where x is any figure from 0 to 9).

Group MMSIs can be manually programmed into a DSC-equipped transceiver by the user at will (unlike the self-ID). Any number with a leading zero can be used as a Group MMSI, and they do not need to be registered, but the entity deciding on a Group MMSI must use the MID of the host country or country of vessel registration. The Group ID should be based on a key vessel in the Group, and a good way to proceed is to drop the last digit of the lead vessel’s MMSI and place a zero in front of the 503 as follows:

Example 1: a fleet of vessels has a lead or main vessel with a DSC self-ID of 503123456 and wishes to set up a Group MMSI for a special event. The group ID could be 050312345.

This would then be programmed into all fleet vessels as the special event Group MMSI.

Example 2: a fleet of vessels has a lead or main vessel with a DSC self-ID of 503080110. The Group MMSI could be 050308011. This would then be programmed into all fleet vessels as the special event Group MMSI.

Group MMSI numbers are not to be used for AIS transceivers.

Maritime Identities for Handheld "portable" VHF DSC transceivers

AMSA recognises the safety potentialof VHF marine transceivers with DSC capability. AMSA's policyfor these unitsisto allocateMMSIs to individual radio transceiversrather than to a single vessel-specific MMSI (on a case-by-case basis). In Australia, until January 2012, these transceivers' maritime identities had the format 5039xxxxx where x is any figure from 0 to 9.

From January 2012, Australian handheld VHF transceivers with DSC now use the maritime identity format 8503xxxxx, where x is any figure from 0 to 9, in accordance with Recommendation ITU-R M.585-6, Annex II, Section I.

When a handheld VHF transceiver with DSC changes ownership, AMSA is to be advised of the new owner's details.

Please note that handheld VHF transceivers with DSC are issued to persons, rather than vessels, in recognition that these transceivers can move between vessels.

The requirement to present a copy of an appropriate radio operator's qualification when applying for an MMSI also applies to MMSIs requested for the 'portable' VHF DSC transceivers described above.

Please contact AMSA for any further information.

Diver Handheld VHF DSC transceivers

Effective as from November 2013, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) does not mandate a marine radio operator certificate prior to the issuing of an MMSI for personally attached diver VHF radios, that offer a digital selective calling transmit capability, and limited voice communications. This presumes that the radio operator in the diving boat (mother vessel) is qualified. In the case of lone divers not operating from boats, the requirement for a marine radio operator certificate remains.

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Maritime Survivor Locating Systems

MOB /MSLS devices using VHF DSC Channel 70

Maritime Survivor Locating Systems or 'Man Overboard Devices' compliant with AS/NZS 4869.2 may use Distress Alerts via Digital Selective Calling using VHF DSC Channel 70, and in Australia, automated voice announcements indicating Distress using the "Man Overboard" indication on the Distress, Urgency and Safety and Calling frequency of 156.8 MHz (VHF Channel 16).

Such low-power devices also may indicate the position of theMan Overboard Distress in the DSC message and/or in Australia, the voice message. Suchannouncements have Distress priority and are to be treated as Distress transmissions. Stationsreceiving these alerts should be aware that these alerts and messages are one-way broadcast messages to all stations in range, and cannot be acknowledged of cancelled until the battery is exhausted or sinks.

Some of these devices, developed for overseas markets, contain a DSC receiver, which allows acknowledgement or cancellation by a coast station or SOLAS vessel (but only under direction of a coast station or the Rescue Coordination Centre as per IMO COMSAR/Circ.25).

The intention of these devices is to enable vesselsand coast stations in range to facilitate rescue of persons in distress in the shortest possible time.

MOB/MSLS devices using Automatic Identification System (AIS) frequencies

A number of devices used as Man Overboard Devices (Maritime Survivor Locating Systems/Devices) use AIS technology based on the on burst transmissions defined in Annex 9 of Recommendation ITU-R M.1371. Early versions of these devices have the maritime identity of the format 970xxyyyy, but newer units starting from 2011, use the format 972xxyyyy, (see footnote 1 below the Table), which has been internationally agreed in Recommendation ITU-R M.585-6, Annex 2, Section 2.

There is currently no AS/NZS standard for these devices, but they should be certified by a competent testing house that they are sufficiently compliant with the IEC 61097-14 for the purpose it is intended, or fully compliant with overseas standards, such as RTCM 11901.1 (June 2012). Additional overseas standards for these devices are under development.

Diver Locating Systems using AIS

Some diver locating devices use techonology based on burst transmissions defined in Annex 9 of Recommendation ITU-R M.1371, in a similar way to Man Overboard devices. The International Maritime Organization (NAV 58) has agreed that diver locating devices used for routine diver operations should not operate on the international AIS frequencies 161.975 MHz (AIS 1) or 162.025 MHz (AIS 2). AIS 1 and AIS 2 should only be used when a diver is in a non-routine situation. The associated text transmitted in a non-routine diver situation should be MOB ACTIVE (or MOB TEST in test mode). The maritime identifier in this situation should be the same as for MOB devices: eg. 972xxyyyy, as described above.

Please contact AMSA for any further information.

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Summary of Australian MMSI formats in current usage

Note: x or y to be any figure 0 through 9

Type of Station MMSI format

DSC equipment

Ship stations

503xxxxxx

Craft associated with a parent ship

98503xxxx

SAR aircraft

111503xxx

Handheld Portable VHF DSC (Australia only)

5039xxxxx (until Jan. 2012)

Handheld Portable VHF DSC

8503xxxxx (after Jan. 2012)

Group of ship stations

0503xxxxx

Coast station

00503xxxx

Man Overboard (MOB/MSLS) devices1

5038XXXXX (until Jan. 2012 - Australia only)

Man Overboard (MOB/MSLS) devices1

972xxyyyy

Automatic Identification Systems (AIS)

AIS Class A/B transceivers

503xxxxxx or 503xxx000

AIS base stations (incl. repeaters)

00503xxxx

Physical (real) AIS Aids to Navigation (AtoN)2

995031xxx

Synthetic AIS Aids to Navigation (AtoN)3

995031xxx

Virtual AIS Aids to Navigation (AtoN)4

995036xxx

AIS on craft associated with parent ship4

98503xxxx

AIS-SARTs (AIS-Search and Rescue Transmitters)6

970xxyyyy

Man Overboard (MOB/MSLS) devices1

972xxyyyy

406 MHz EPIRBs fitted with an AIS transmitter

974xxyyyy

AIS on SAR aircraft7

111503xxx

  1. Maritime Survivor Locating Systems (AS/NZS 4869.2) until January 2012 used the maritime identity in the format 5038XXXXX, but now use the internationally agreed format 972xxyyyy, where x and y are any numbers between 0 and 9. The number is pre-programmed. The ‘xx’ numbers are allocated to manufacturers by the International Association for Marine Electronics Companies (CIRM), and the ‘yyyy’ numbers are allocated by the manufacturer as sequential numbers. In accordance with Recommendation ITU-R M.585-6, the sequential numbers can be re-used once 9999 is reached. AMSA does not allocate these numbers, and no radio operator licence is required.
  2. AIS fitted to physical aids to navigation such as floating buoys and beacons.
  3. AIS base stations can broadcast a non-physical “synthetic” AIS AtoN to appear at the location of a real physical AtoN on an AIS-enabled display system (e.g. AIS, ECDIS or radar).
  4. AIS base stations can broadcast a non-physical “virtual” AIS AtoN at a particular location when no physical AtoN exists.
  5. AIS on workboats or other vessels deployed from a parent vessel.
  6. AIS-SARTs are survival craft SAR-locating devices which can be carried in-lieu of radar SARTs on SOLAS vessels from 1 January 2010, and can be carried on non-SOLAS vessels for similar purposes.
  7. EPIRBs fitted with an AIS transmitter use the maritime identity format 974xxyyyy for the AIS transmission, so as to be distinguished from other devices using AIS, where x and y are any numbers between 0 and 9. The number is pre-programmed. The ‘xx’ numbers are allocated to manufacturers by the International Association for Marine Electronics Companies (CIRM), and the ‘yyyy’ numbers are allocated by the manufacturer as sequential numbers. In accordance with Recommendation ITU-R M.585-6, the sequential numbers can be re-used once 9999 is reached. This number is allocated by the manufacturer, and not AMSA, and should not be confused with the HEX ID or Unique Identifier used in EPIRBs, ELTs and PLBs. AMSA does not allocate these numbers, and no radio operator licence is required.
  8. AIS on search and rescue (SAR) aircraft is a variant of AIS specifically for SAR. AIS can also be used for safety-related purposes on non-SAR aircraft (such as marine pilot-transfer helicopters).

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Operator qualifications and licence requirements

To operate a VHF transceiver with or without DSC fitted, the minimum radio operator qualification required is the Marine Radio Operator’s VHF Certificate of Proficiency (MROVCP). The same requirement exists for AIS transceivers. VHF transceivers and AIS transceivers are covered by an ACMA Class licence, so an individual station licence is no longer required.

To operate an MF/HF transceiver (with or without DSC facilities) a Marine Radio Operator’s Certificate of Proficiency (MROCP) is the minimum qualification required. A separate Maritime Ship Station licence is also required, which is issued by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Aviation radio operator qualifications are not accepted for AIS or DSC equipment carried aboard vessels. Aviation radio operator qualifications are only acceptable for AIS or DSC fitted to an aircraft.

The Marine Radio Operators Handbook provides further information about qualifications, licensing and DSC operations.

Can you use a DSC Radio correctly?

Maritime Communication Station facilities for DSC

Australia has declared the whole of the Australia Search and Rescue Region as GMDSS Sea Area A3 which gives large commercial ships the option of using Inmarsat or HF DSC as a primary means of communications and distress alerting.

Two HF DSC stations operated by Kordia provide HF DSC distress alerting and follow-on communications on radiotelephony and Narrow Band Direct Printing (NBDP). The stations are located at Wiluna in WA, and Charleville in Qld, and are operated remotely from Canberra.

Any vessel fitted with appropriate HF DSC equipment can call into the HF DSC network.

The States and Northern Territory are responsible for marine safety communication services for recreational, fishing and other commercial vessels under States/Northern Territory jurisdiction.

The States and Northern Territory have implemented a network of 9 (nine) HF limited coast stations which monitor 4125, 6215, and 8291 kHz and broadcast navigation warnings on 8176 kHz and VHF Ch.67. These stations also monitor VHF channel 16 and may also monitor other marine frequencies.

There is no official MF or VHF DSC shore infrastructure in Australia. Vessels fitting MF and VHF DSC equipment should realise that this equipment can only be used for vessel – to – vessel alerting in the Australian region. There is no official shore-based MF or VHF DSC infrastructure, but there are a number of volunteer marine rescue (VMR) stations that have installed VHF DSC and a check with your local VMR should be made.

Download the brochure Digital Selective Calling - Frequently Asked Questions [pdf iconPDF: 402Kb].

Small craft proceeding overseas

It is recommended that smaller craft planning voyages overseas check the radio facilities offered along their route. Whilst large commercial vessels subject to the SOLAS Convention are required to keep a watch on channel 16 VHF when practicable, there may be a case to fit VHF DSC along with some form of long range communications such as Inmarsat-C. Compatibility with GMDSS services is strongly recommended. Details of GMDSS radio facilities offered around the world can be found in the Admiralty List of Radio Signals Volume V, published by the UK Hydrographic Office and available through most chart and publication shops.

Please contact AMSA for more information.

Search for MMSI

Applying for an MMSI

A form is available for boat owners to fill in to apply for an Australian MMSI. To be eligible for issue of an Australian Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number you must have previously obtained an ACMA Maritime Ship Station licence number and callsign for an MF/HF transceiver and a Marine Radio Operator's Certificate of Proficiency (MROCP), or a GMDSS General Operator's Certificate of Proficiency (GOCP). For a VHF only installation, the transceiver is covered by a Class licence but the minimum radio operator qualification required is a MROVCP.

Complete MMSI Application Online
Printed application form: AMSA 89 [PDF IconPDF: 36 KB]
Text application form: AMSA 89 [ DOT: 194 KB]

If you are unable to download the above form, a hard copy can be faxed or posted to you, please contact AMSA.

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