How to Get a MMSI (The Short Version)
UPDATED 2020: Lots of related websites changed over the years. This post was updated with fresh information in 2020.
A MMSI number (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) is a nine-digit number that identifies your boat for marine traffic monitoring systems. The unique identifier facilitates VHF communications, customs and border security, emergency response, and commercial call tracking and billing.
So, how do you get one? In order to obtain an MMSI number you will need to contact the appropriate issuing authority in which your boat is registered. This article specifically addresses the 2 options an owner of a US-flagged vessel may use to obtain a MMSI number. For our Canadian neighbors, you may acquire a MMSI from Industry Canada.
Option 1 to Acquire MMSI Number
The FCC (Federal Communication Commission) and the USCG (United States Coast Guard) have authorized a BoatUS to issue MMSI numbers to vessels meeting the following criteria:
- Used for recreation only
- Not required by law to carry a radio
- Do not visit or conduct radio communications with foreign ports
These vessels are not required to be licensed, but may need a MMSI to use with a VHF DSC (Digital Selective Calling) radio, EPIRB, or Class B AIS Transponder. If you meet all of these requirements above, then visit BoatUS to register for an account to acquire a MMSI number. Alternatively, you can request a form so that you can mail, fax, or email it rather than completing the online form. See instructions to request a MMSI application form.
It’s free. But if you intend to visit foreign ports or have a need to communicate with a foreign port, you must acquire your MMSI number from the FCC.
Option 2 to Acquire MMSI Number
If you are a US-flagged vessel and you don’t meet all of the criteria described in option 1, you will need to file for an MMSI number with the FCC.
Once you have an FRN:
- Log in with your FCC Registration Number (FRN) and password. Tip: If you are taken to the My Applications page after logging in, click “My Licenses” to begin the steps below:
- Click the link “Apply for a New License” on the left-hand side of the page.
- Choose “SA or SB – Ship” from the radio service drop down list. Note: ULS will determine the correct radio service code (SA/SB) based on answers you create on the application. Click Continue.
- Assigned Call Sign page:
- Answer “Yes” only if the vessel has already has a four-letter call sign.
- If its call sign has >4 letters or contains any numbers, answer this question as No.
- Compulsory Questions page:
- Answer “Are you required by law or treaty to carry a radio on your vessel?” with “Yes” to obtain a “Ship Compulsory Equipped (SB)” license. If you answer “No”, you will get a “Ship Recreational or Voluntarily Equipped (SA)” license.
- Ship License Type page:
- Only select “Portable” if you can justify using a single transmitter aboard two or more ships. This basically authorizes marine radio equipment to be used on different vessels which is not common.
- Only select “Fleet” if you can certify that none of the vessels in the fleet are using DSC (Digital Selective Calling) or AIS (Automatic Identification System) equipment. If you select “Fleet”, use the “Attachments” link at the top of the page to upload the certification.
- Ship Radio Requirement Categories page (only displayed if you answered Yes to the “Are you required by law or treaty to carry a radio on your vessel” question):
- Answer Question A as “Yes” only if the vessel is 1600 or more gross tons AND has a capacity >12 passengers
- You must answer one of the questions on this page as “Yes” to obtain a “Ship Compulsory Equipped (SB)” license. If you answer all questions on this page as “No”, you will receive a “Ship Recreational or Voluntarily Equipped (SA)” license.
- On the Summary page, review your application and click the Continue to Certify button to continue.
- On the Certification page, sign your application by typing your name in the boxes provided and click the Submit button.
- Fees are calculated by the system. Fees for online applications MUST be received within 10 calendar days so remember to send the payment.
- Click the “Continue For Payment Options” button to choose the method of payment.
The regulations that govern Ship Station licenses can be found at https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title47/47tab_02.tpl
Tip: Forgot your password to your FRN?
- Look under the Submit button on the Log In page and click the “Contact Tech Support” link.
- On the next page, click the “Error! Filename not specified” link then follow the sequence to reset your password.
- After receiving confirmation of a successful password reset, click the link for Universal Licensing System (DO NOT click the CORES Public Interface link.)
- Click the ULS License Manager button (look for yellow) to return to the Log In page.
- Enter the FRN and new password and click Submit.
How to Find Your Boat’s Existing MMSI
If you lost your MMSI or recently purchased a boat and need to know if it has a MMSI number, you can set the search type to “by name” and enter the boat’s name on this website to find its MMSI, if one is assigned
Downloading Approved Authorizations
After your MMSI is granted, download an official copy of your license from the License Manager:
- Login to https://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsEntry/licManager/login.jsp to log in with your FRN and password (just like you did above when applying.
- On the License Manager home page, click the “Download Electronic Authorizations” link on the left-hand menu.
- In the My Authorizations box at the bottom of the page, select the call sign(s) you wish to download.
- Click the “Add” button to put the call signs in the “Authorizations to Download” box.
- When you have added all the call signs needed, click the “Download” button in the lower right-hand corner.
The download will arrive to your computer as a PDF file. You may choose to Open so you can print it or Save to your computer drive.
For questions, submit a help request at https://www.fcc.gov/available-support-services or call the FCC Licensing Support Center at (877) 480-3201.