The maritime radio service for New Zealand
Maritime New Zealand is responsible for maintaining radio services for New Zealand’s coastal waters and the South Pacific. As well as providing around-the-clock monitoring of VHF and HF distress channels.
Maritime New Zealand also broadcasts safety information, such as meteorological warnings, navigational warnings and ionospheric prediction warnings. Warnings are broadcast at set times of the day or anytime warnings come to hand.
Maritime New Zealand owns and maintains one third of the maritime radio network. The remainder is provided for and maintained by Kordia.
The VHF radio network provides radio services within New Zealand’s coastal waters
- distress messages
- maritime safety information
- weather updates
- navigational warnings
- ship-to-ship communications
- ship-to-shore communications
The Maritime New Zealand VHF (very high frequency) radio network consists of 28 coastal stations covering New Zealand coastal waters and two stations on the Chatham Islands covering their coastal waters.
VHF radio distress calls are transmitted on VHF channel 16. This channel is monitored 24-hours per day and dedicated to distress, safety and calling. All VHF stations provide a separate working channel for other communications.
Coverage is not guaranteed in the entire VHF coverage area at all times due to terrain shadows and system maintenance. Terrain shadows occur close to the shore under some cliffs or in bays and fiords.
VHF is used to describe frequencies or channels in the range 30 – 300 MHz.
The MF/HF (medium and high frequency) Maritime Radio Service is provided by TAUPO Maritime Radio, from a site in the middle of the North Island.
MF/HF is used to describe frequencies or channels in the range 300 kHz – 30 MHz. SSB (single side band) radios are used for communication in the MF/HF bands.
The HF coverage area is essentially NAVAREA XIV, but coverage outside this area is usually possible as well.
NAVAREA XIV is the area bounded by the co-ordinates:
- South Pole
- 45°S, 160°E
- 29°S, 170°E
- Equator, 170°E
- Equator, 120°W
- South Pole.
The INMARSAT satellite system covers all the earth’s surface between 70°N and 70°S
Distress alerts can be picked up from anywhere within the coverage area. The Maritime Safety Information broadcasts are, however, only sent to the South Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea areas.
New Zealand Distress and Safety Radio Service
The region covered by the New Zealand Distress and Safety Radio Service is known as NAVAREA XIV.
The maritime distress radio system is a radio network and operations centre dedicated to issuing weather and navigation warnings and handling distress and safety radio calls within the NAVAREA XIV radio coverage region.
The network is a series of radio stations that are tuned to maritime frequencies and linked to Maritime New Zealand’s Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) in Wellington. The Maritime Operations Centre also passes information to the INMARSAT satellite system.
The Maritime Operations Centre has trained radio operators who keep a 24-hour watch of all the stations in the radio network. The operators will respond to distress calls, handle trip reports and broadcast safety information.
They assist the Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand (RCCNZ) with communications. RCCNZ co-ordinates all major sea, air and land search and rescue missions within the New Zealand search and rescue regions.
Network of volunteer private radio operators
The radio service provided by Maritime New Zealand is complemented by a network of volunteer private radio operators from around New Zealand and islands offshore.
The private operators’ radio stations, including Coastguard radio, usually have people very familiar with their local area but most don’t operate 24/7.