On the sea, the radios are your only true connection to the real world, i.e. the civilization living on land. VHF (Very High Frequency) Radios are very commonly used in the marine industry and are used for all sorts of important communications. Hence, as a skipper, it is extremely important for you to learn how these radios operate. And hence, taking a VHF Radio Course in South Africa for you has become mandatory.

What are VHF Radios? – A brief overview

Wikipedia’s Marine VHF Radio article defines VHF Radios as “a worldwide system of two-way radio transceivers on ships and watercraft used for bidirectional voice communication from ship-to-ship, ship-to-shore, and in certain circumstances ship-to-aircraft.” As mentioned in the opening, it is the exchange of communication.

These radios use FM frequency for communications and their frequencies range from 30Mhz to 300Mhz. As for which frequencies to use, it differs by country. Generally, each country has a set of frequencies for specific purposes such as secured communications, tournaments/sports events, or distress calls. South Africa does have its own set frequencies as well.

Are you supposed to have a VHF/SRC Radio License in South Africa?

Yes, in a way. Since January 1, 2016, all seagoing vessels are required to have a DSC-enabled VHF radio. While the old RT license is sufficient to operate the old radio system of 29Mhz frequency and non-DSC VHF radios, you will have to take the exam for the DSC-enabled SRC radios.


MN 32 of 2016 – Radio equipment carriage and radio certification requirements for small vessels

Marine Notice No. 6 of 2015

And since DSC-enabled VHF radios are compulsory on seagoing vessels (except Cat E vessels), it is almost compulsory for skippers to obtain the license, regardless of having a past experience in operating radios.

We highly recommend taking the exam for the license. There are one-day courses available that will properly train you in operating the VHF radio equipment. More about it later in this article.

What is this DSC you have mentioned?

DSC stands for Digital Selective Calling. It is the core part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). With DSC, you get an MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) number; which you can think as of your ship’s private number. You can use this system to privately communicate with other vessels or with shore authorities.

The DSC system hence avoids interfering with the emergency frequencies and hence keeps the communication streamlined on the sea. The DSC is also very efficient in sending a distress signal that may contain data like your MMSI number and GPS coordinates.

For detailed information, we highly recommend reading its Wikipedia page.

VHF Radio Course in South Africa

There are various modules present in the VHF Radio Course. All of the basic modules are covered in mostly all VHF courses. These courses are for 1 day generally, but some institutes may focus on providing an extensive course for up to 3 days.

In a VHF Radio Course, you learn the following:

  • Routine VHF radio communications & ship-to-shore calls
  • DSC – Digital Selective Calling
  • Use of the right radio frequencies (channels)
  • Distress, emergency, and medical calls
  • Global Maritime Distress & Safety System (GMDSS)
  • Emergency position indicating radio beacons – EPIRBs, PLBs and SARTs

You will be learning this course with a simulator, giving you an idea of how a VHF radio works. You can either opt-in for the online option or the classroom option. The beauty of the online option is that you can learn this course at your own pace and online instructors can assist you whenever you have a query. You just have to make sure whether the simulator software works o your computer or not.

The second one is the classroom. It is most likely for one day but some institutes will provide better tutorship with some pre-course warmup.

After the course, you have to take the exam. This exam will be in the form of written and practical. Your instructor cannot be your examiner. Upon passing the exam, you will get a VHF Short Range or Long Range certificate, depending on what exam you opted-in for.

Also, important. You must score at least 80% overall to actually pass the VHF Radio Exam.


Ever since 2016, the South African government (SAMSA entity) has made it mandatory for vessels above Category E to have a VHF radio onboard. Hence, a VHF radio course is mandatory for almost all skippers and boat owners in South Africa now.

At Skipper Training SA, we provide the VHF radio course according to your requirements. For more information on the courses contact us today for further information. We would be glad to assist you in any way we can.

The VHF Radio Course in South Africa

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