International distress frequency

International distress frequency

An international distress frequency is a radio frequency that is designated for emergency communication by international agreement.



For much of the 20th century, 500 kHz was the primary international distress frequency. Its use has been phased out in favor of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System.

Use of some distress frequencies is permitted for calling other stations to establish contact, whereupon the stations move to another frequency. Such channels are known as distress, safety and calling frequencies.[1]

Satellite processing from all 121.5 or 243 MHz locators has been discontinued. Since February 1, 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard only monitors distress signals from emergency position indicating radio beacons that broadcast using digital 406 MHz signals.[2] Digital 406 MHz models became the only ones approved for use in both commercial and recreational watercraft worldwide on January 1, 2007. [3]

Current frequencies

International distress frequencies, currently in use are :

  • 500 kHz is still monitored[citation needed] but as of 2010 has ceased to be used as the primary distress calling frequency at sea
  • 2182 kHz for medium range maritime voice use
  • Several HF maritime voice frequencies exist for long-distance distress calls:
  • 406 MHz to 406.1 MHz is used used by the Cospas-Sarsat international satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) distress alert detection and information distribution system

Digital Selective Calling frequencies

Several maritime frequencies are used for Digital Selective Calling (DSC), and they are also monitored for DSC distress signals:

  • 2,187.5 kHz[4]
  • 4,207.5 kHz[4]
  • 6,312 kHz[4]
  • 8,414.5 kHz[4]
  • 12,577 kHz[4]
  • 16,804.5 kHz[4]
  • 156.525 MHz Marine VHF radio Channel 16

Amateur radio frequencies

  • Global Center of Activity (GCOA) frequencies of the amateur radio Maritime Mobile Service Network: 21,360 kHz, 18,160 kHz, 14,300 kHz, 7,240 kHz, 7,060 kHz, 3,985 kHz and 3,750 kHz. [5]
  • Emergency/Disaster Relief Interoperation Voice Channels of the amateur radio Global ALE High Frequency Network: 3791.0 kHz USB, 7185.5 kHz USB, 10145.5 kHz USB, 14346.0 kHz USB, 18117.5 kHz USB, 21432.5 kHz USB, 24932.0 kHz USB, 28312.5 kHz USB. [6]

See also


  1. ^ Bartlett, Tim (2006). VHF Handbook. Southampton: The Royal Yachting Association. p. 28, 31. ISBN 978-1-905104-03-1. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "HF Distress and Safety Watchkeeping Schedule" (HTML). U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center. U.S. Coast Guard. Retrieved Oct 12, 2011. 
  5. ^
  6. ^

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