If you are shopping for a new DSC (Digital Selective Calling) radio for your vessel, be forewarned that it will not transmit any DSC call until you obtain and install your nine-digit MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity). The radio’s user manual must be carefully followed during installation, and great care must be taken when inputting the MMSI, as mistakes are not easily corrected, if at all. Once the MMSI is stored, it should not be possible to alter it without contacting the manufacturer or possibly returning the equipment for a factory reset. Trying to save money by buying a DSC radio at a swap meet or flea market is obviously a bad idea. Purchasing a DSC radio from a reputable and knowledgeable dealer is the only way to be sure that the unit meets current requirements and will function as intended.
DSC radios are programmed to display the vessel’s MMSI on start-up, so obtain your MMSI as soon as you purchase your radio. If the equipment is not configured with an MMSI, it will generate distracting auditory and visual alerts indefinitely and will not function properly. The manufacturers of DSC equipment are including these alerts to convince us to obtain and enter an MMSI so that this equipment can perform its intended lifesaving functions. A thorough tutorial on the installation and use of DSC radios is available at this BoatU.S. Foundation website, and a free registration process for obtaining an MMSI is available here.