We have our MMSI!

We are now registered and MMSI’ed (hmm, I may need to register that verb!). What does that mean?!

Your registration with your country is an important part of ownership AND insurance. You need to be correctly registered. Registration of a vessel is either through a legal entity like a company, or in the names of one or more individuals. They both have some advantages and disadvantages. After some research, we chose to register personally.

The decision means that the vessel must be Australian (since we are). If we had gone down the company path, we could have registered almost anywhere that we could setup the company – think tax havens, and there’s the same thing for ship registration (the common example is of Liberian registration, but I have no idea whether that jurisdiction is still going).

To register a vessel in Australia, you apply to AMSA (the Australian Marine Safety Authority). Pay some money (quite a lot!) and wait, and eventually you’re allocated:

  • Registration number (an O.N. or Official Number):  862468
  • Home port: Sydney (Australia)
  • Overall length: 14.95m
  • This is linked to the old vessel call sign: FAE3614

Now you have an Official Number, you can apply to AMSA for a MMSI. A MMSI (Marine Mobile Service Identity) is a unique identifier that you need for AIS, HF or VHF DSC systems. It also applies for EPIRBs. It doesn’t cost anything. Not to long to wait and you have yours:

  • MMSI: 503082820    (Also linked to the old call sign FAE3614)

You can search for Australian MMSIs. Once the AIS is changed to use the new MMSI, you can use systems such as VesselFinder and others.

Once you have you vessel registered, you need to apply the new registration before the papers are sent to you. For Australian vessels, this means:

  • Putting the name on each bow (>= 100mm high letters)
  • Putting the name and home port on the stern (>= 100mm high letters)
  • Etching (!) the O.N. and length onto the “main beam”

Finally, you need to update your systems to put in the new MMSI. For us that means:

  • Our VHF DSC, a Navicom RT 650 DSC. We have received the update method for this from the manufacturer and can do it ourselves (the method, for others, is reported to be:
    • with the VHF off, press the “band”, “watch” and “16” keys and turn on the VHF, then enter the code 8000. Clear the MMSI. Turn off the VHF and then on again, and enter the new MMSI.
  • Our AIS, a class B Vesper WatchMate 850 transponder (sends and receives). We have received an email from the manufacturer that if we get the serial number and currently installed MMSI, we can be emailed an authorisation code and instructions for clearing it on the display so a new MMSI can be entered. I’ll report on this once we get on the boat again.
  • Our EPIRB, a McMurdo Smartfind G5. Unfortunately, it seems impossible to self-enter a new MMSI in this (or any?) EPIRB. At best you have to send it off to the manufacturer, or their local agent, for it to be done and reports are that it can take months. We are thinking of getting a new EPIRB for this reason, but will be asking the local agent when we get to the UK as we are only 2 years (January 2017) into the life of the current EPIRB.

So after all that – and it took months – we are now registered as a vessel and for marine communications. Once we are aboard you can find us on the various vessel finding sites under the MMSI shown above.

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