[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 135 (Monday, July 15, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 42102-42103]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-16801]


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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Coast Guard

[Docket No. USCG-2013-0521]


Termination of Radiotelephone Medium Frequency 2182 kHz 
Watchkeeping, 2187.5 kHz Digital Selective Calling Channel Guard, and 
2670 kHz Broadcasts

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: The United States Coast Guard is announcing that it will no 
longer maintain a watch on 2182 kHz, will no longer guard the Digital 
Selective Calling (DSC) channel 2187.5 kHz, and will no longer transmit 
Marine Information Broadcasts on 2670 kHz. The minimal use of these 
channels by mariners for distress and safety coupled with antenna site 
deterioration, costly upkeep, and extensive maintenance required to 
support the medium frequency (MF) system have led to a Coast Guard 
decision to terminate the MF services and direct the public mariner to 
use more modern safety and distress services which can be more reliably 
received by the Coast Guard.

DATES: The termination announced in this notice is effective on August 
1, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions on this Notice, contact 
Larry S. Solomon, Spectrum Management and Telecommunications Policy 
Counsel (Commandant CG-652) telephone: 202-475-3556; email: 
larry.s.solomon@uscg.mil.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The frequency 2182 kHz (which is in the 
frequency band generally referred to as medium frequency (MF)), was 
designated more than 65 years ago at the International 
Telecommunications Union Radio Conference (Atlantic City, 1947) as an 
international radiotelephone distress frequency. Shore stations that 
operated in this MF band, and ships subject to the International 
Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea Ch. IV, Reg. 5 (SOLAS) were 
required to maintain a watch on this frequency.
    Beginning in 1987, the International Telecommunications Union Radio 
Regulations and SOLAS were amended to incorporate this MF 
radiotelephone watchkeeping requirement within the Global Maritime 
Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), an internationally agreed-upon set 
of satellite and terrestrial communications systems used to increase 
safety and facilitate the location and rescue of distressed ships, 
boats and aircraft. Under GMDSS, ship and shore exclusive watchkeeping 
on MF 2182 kHz was no longer a requirement, but instead became only one 
of several frequencies available for distress communications.
    No domestic regulations exist requiring the Coast Guard to provide 
MF distress safety watchkeeping services, although Federal 
Communications Commission regulations in 47 CFR Part 80 mandate certain 
carriage requirements in order to communicate in an emergency. SOLAS 
requires the Coast Guard to provide, as it deems practical and 
necessary, appropriate shore-based facilities for GMDSS services 
including those in the 1.6-4 MHz range (SOLAS). The Coast Guard, in 
cooperation with other agencies and organizations, provides each of the 
other five services listed in SOLAS regulations, including satellite 
communications, support for 406 MHz satellite emergency position-
indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs), VHF communications through Rescue 
21, high frequency radiocommunications, and NAVTEX \1\ broadcasts of 
maritime safety information.
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    \1\ NAVTEX is a broadcast warning system that delivers 
navigational warnings, meteorological warnings and forecasts, and 
other marine safety information.
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    While many countries terminated 2182 kHz watchkeeping from shore 
when GMDSS was implemented in 1999, the Coast Guard continued its watch 
on this frequency to support smaller vessels not subject to SOLAS that 
operate between approximately 20 and 100 miles from shore. Advancements 
in satellite, digital, very high frequency (VHF), and high frequency 
(HF) radio communication equipment, including satellite service 
provider competition, have improved service and reduced costs of this 
equipment causing MF radiotelephone to become obsolete.
    In addition, a detailed review of several Coast Guard MF sites 
revealed significant antenna ground deterioration and infrastructure 
support degradation, leaving the Coast Guard at risk for not being able 
to receive or respond to maritime distress calls on 2182 kHz or 2187.5 
kHz, and not being able to transmit effectively on 2670 kHz. Early last 
year, as a result of physical site surveys, the Coast Guard confirmed 
the

[[Page 42103]]

significant site deterioration and, therefore, the unreliability of 
receiving MF distress transmissions at many locations. The Coast Guard 
provided notifications of the situation to mariners using Local Notice 
to Mariners and radio broadcasts. The Coast Guard did not receive any 
adverse reaction to those notifications.
    The site deterioration, costly upkeep, and extensive maintenance 
required to support this legacy MF system, as well as the relatively 
minimal use by mariners, has led the Coast Guard to decide to 
discontinue support of the MF system. The Coast Guard will discontinue 
all watchkeeping and transmissions on MF channels, namely the 2182 kHz 
voice channel, the 2187.5 kHz Digital Selective Calling (DSC) channel 
and Marine Information Broadcasts (MIBs) on 2670 kHz.
    Mariners have several increasingly low cost and commonly available 
alternatives to using MF distress and non-distress channels. Instead of 
relying on 2182 kHz voice and 2187.5 kHz DSC, mariners can tune their 
existing HF radios to other GMDSS radiotelephone distress voice 
frequencies the Coast Guard monitors (i.e., 4125, 6215, 8291, or 12290 
kHz voice), use satellite-based communication for EPIRB and voice 
communications, or use HF radios equipped with DSC. The information in 
the 2670 kHz broadcasts (weather forecasts and warnings, Notice to 
Mariners, and urgent marine information broadcasts) will continue to be 
available from other broadcast sources (e.g., SafetyNet \2\, NAVTEX, 
VHF) and online. The Coast Guard urges mariners to use these other 
alternatives to the MF channels for distress calls, DSC calls, and 
information broadcasts.
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    \2\ SafetyNET is a satellite-based broadcast warning system that 
delivers high seas navigational warnings, meteorological warnings 
and forecasts, ice reports, and other marine safety information.
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    Mariners should not need to purchase any new equipment to make this 
change from 2182 kHz to other GMDSS distress frequencies. Most 
radiocommunications equipment carried by vessels is able to operate in 
the 2-27.5 MHz range in addition to the VHF radiotelephone also carried 
by ships. While some older radios may not tune to other frequencies, 
these radios are no longer sold, parts are not available for repairing 
them and they are not typically found on vessels. Therefore, the 
overwhelming majority of vessels simply need to tune their radios from 
2182 kHz to another GMDSS distress frequency (such as 4125, 6215, 8291, 
or 12290 kHz). Because VHF frequencies may not be reliable more than 20 
nautical miles from shore, any vessel that operates more than 20 
nautical miles from the coast should carry radiocommunications 
equipment capable of tuning to distress frequencies other than VHF to 
ensure the vessel is able to make a distress call when needed.
    All vessel owners and operators are strongly advised to check their 
communication equipment regularly to ensure it is properly installed, 
operating and tuned to the most reliable distress channels. For more 
information visit the Coast Guard's Navigation Center Web site at 
www.navcen.uscg.gov.

Authority

    This notice is issued under authority of 14 U.S.C. 93(a)(16) and 5 
U.S.C. 552(a).

    Dated: July 9, 2013.
Alfredo Mistichelli,
U.S. Coast Guard, Acting Chief, Office of Information Assurance and 
Spectrum Policy, Commandant (CG-65).
[FR Doc. 2013-16801 Filed 7-12-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 9110-04-P