Application forms related to maritime mobile service identities (MMSIs) are in the process of being converted from paper to online format. As a result, minor changes have been made to the document; however, the content has not changed.
Comments and suggestions may be sent to the mailing or email address below.
Innovation, Science and Economic
Development Canada (ISED)
Spectrum Management and Operations Branch
235 Queen Street
Attention: Spectrum Management Operations
See the Spectrum Management and Telecommunications website for all publications.
For reasons of safety and radiocommunication, a station that operates in the maritime mobile service may require a unique identifier. The Radiocommunication Sector of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU‑R) has recommended the adoption of an international system of automatic station identification. Consequently, in its Radio Regulations, the ITU-R has adopted the assignment and use of identities in the maritime mobile service.
This document replaces Issue 6 of the Client Procedures Circular CPC-2-3-07, Maritime Mobile Service Identities (MMSIs).
This Client Procedures Circular (CPC) provides information about identities in the maritime mobile service. It describes the required procedures for communicating with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) to obtain identities or to register preprogrammed identities.
4. Terms and definitions
Aids to navigation (AtoN): Radiocommunication stations that aid navigation at sea.
AIS search and rescue transmitter (AIS-SART): A self-contained radio transmitter that uses standard automatic identification system (AIS) Class A position reports to help determine the location of a survival craft or distressed vessel.
Coast station: A land station in the maritime mobile service.
Device: A transmitter or receiver, or a combination of a transmitter and receiver, including accessory equipment necessary at one location for providing a radiocommunication service.
EPIRB-AIS: Emergency position-indicating radio beacon with AIS locating functions.
Man overboard (MOB) device: A piece of equipment that is attached to a person and that sends an alert if the person falls overboard.
Maritime mobile Access and Retrieval System (MARS): A remote online access and retrieval system that allows users to consult the information currently registered in the International Telecommunication Union’s maritime database system.
Maritime mobile service (MMS): A mobile service between coast stations and ship stations, between ship stations or between associated on-board communication stations. Survival craft stations and emergency position-indicating radio beacon stations may also participate in this service.
Ship station: A mobile station operating in the maritime mobile service, located on board a vessel that is not permanently moored and not intended solely for survival purposes.
Survival craft station: A mobile station that operates in the maritime mobile service and is intended solely for survival purposes. It may be located on a lifeboat, life raft or other survival equipment.
In Canada, identities in the maritime mobile service (MMS) are issued only to Canadian-owned stations operating in this service.
If you have questions about eligibility, contact your local ISED district office.
The use of identities has vastly improved the efficiency of radiocommunications in the MMS. It has been implemented through digital selective calling (DSC), which forms an integral part of the global maritime distress and safety system (GMDSS). The use of DSC in the GMDSS allows distress and safety communications to be automated, which facilitates the transmission and reception of information essential to safety-of-life. DSC also allows communications through the public switched telephone network (PSTN), where available.
A station that uses DSC must be able to uniquely identify itself and, in most cases, to identify the intended addressee of the call.Footnote 1 This identification is accomplished through the identity assigned to the station.
To be issued identification, a station operating in the MMS must hold a radio licence, unless it is exempt from licensing under section 15.2 of the Radiocommunication Regulations.
There are two main types of identities: the maritime mobile service identity (MMSI) and the maritime identity (MI).
The MMSI may be assigned to ship stations, including hand-held very high frequency (VHF) transceivers with DSC and a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) operating on board; coast stations; aircraft participating in search and rescue operations; automatic identification system (AIS) aids to navigation; and craft associated with a parent ship.
The MI is used to identify other maritime devices, such as hand-held VHF transceivers with DSC and GNSS not associated with a specific ship station; AIS search and rescue transmitters (AIS‑SARTs); man overboard (MOB) devices; and emergency position-indicating radio beacons that use AIS technology (EPIRB‑AIS).
An MMSI may be issued to the following:
- a vessel that is registered or owned in CanadaFootnote 2 and is fitted, or is soon to be fitted, with an automated radiocommunication system, such as DSC, AIS or ship earth station;Footnote 3
- a licensed coast station in Canada that participates in the GMDSS and uses automated radiocommunication systems, such as DSC, AIS or coast earth stations;
- a Canadian registered aircraft engaged in conducting search and rescue communications with stations in the MMS and appropriately authorized in Canada for such communications;
- an AIS AtoN licensed in Canada;
- a craft that is associated with a parent vessel, used for life-saving purposes (e.g. a lifeboat or life raft) and equipped with a DSC radio.
6.2.1 MMSI format
The format of an MMSI depends on the type of station to which it is assigned. Every MMSI contains a three-digit identifier, called a MID (Maritime Identification Digits), which denotes the country or geographical area of the administration responsible for the ship station identified.
6.2.2 Ship stations
Ship stations make up the most common category of MMSIs assigned by ISED. The MMSI identifies the ship, not the equipment or vessel owner. Therefore, each vessel needs only one ship station MMSI number, which can be programmed into all radio equipment on board.
All ship MMSIs use the format M1I2D3X4X5X6X7X8X9, where the first three digits represent the MID and where X is any number from 0 to 9.
6.2.3 Groups of ship stations
A group ship station MMSI is typically issued when it is ideal for multiple ship stations to be contacted simultaneously with one call. Each ship station in such a group must also have an individual ship station MMSI. To apply for a group ship station MMSI, the group must be represented by a single contact person who completes form D. Refer to section 7.2.2.
A group ship station call identity uses the format 01M2I3D4X5X6X7X8X9, where the first digit is zero and where X is any number from 0 to 9. The MID represents only the territory or geographical area of the administration that is assigning the group ship station call identity and does not prevent group calls to fleets containing more than one ship nationality.
6.2.4 Coast stations
A coast station MMSI is typically issued to a coast station that will be involved with automatic communications with vessels. In general, coast station MMSIs are issued to Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) stations and the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation or to other coast stations with large fleets of vessels, such as a fishing company or tugboat operation. Any such station also requires a radio licence.
All coast station call identities use the format 0102M3I4D5X6X7X8X9, where digits 3, 4 and 5 represent the MID and where X is any number from 0 to 9. Groups of coast radio stations use the same format.
6.2.5 Search and rescue aircraft
An MMSI and a radio licence are required for a Canadian registered aircraft with automated radiocommunications equipment that is used for search and rescue communications with ship and coast stations. AIS and DSC equipment on search and rescue aircraft uses the format 111213M4I5D6X7X8X9, where digits 4, 5 and 6 represent the MID and where X is any number from 0 to 9.
6.2.6 AIS aids to navigation
AtoNs are radiocommunication technologies that are used as aids to navigation. Currently, there are two basic types of AtoNs: physical and virtual. A physical AIS AtoN is typically a buoy emitting an AIS signal that identifies its location and other pertinent navigation information. A virtual AIS AtoN represents an AIS signal, emitted from a coast station that identifies potentially dangerous locations or areas over water thereby assisting navigation.
Each physical and virtual AIS AtoN, which is authorized through the coast station’s radio licence, requires a unique MMSI.
An AIS AtoN uses the format 9192M3I4D5Y6X7X8X9, where digits 3, 4 and 5 represent the MID and where X is any number from 0 to 9. However, digit 6 is used to differentiate specific uses of the MMSI, as represented in the following:
6.2.7 Craft associated with a parent ship
This category of MMSI is specific to life-saving craft, such as lifeboats and life rafts associated with a parent ship. Each life-saving craft associated with a parent ship requires a unique MMSI. All equipment on board each craft must use the same MMSI. This type of MMSI may be programmed into portable DSC equipment, provided this equipment remains with the life-saving craft to which the MMSI is assigned.
AIS and DSC equipment on craft associated with a parent ship uses the format 9182M3I4D5X6X7X8X9, where digits 3, 4 and 5 represent the MID and where X is any number from 0 to 9.
MIs may be issued for various devices, such as the following:
- hand-held VHF transceivers that use DSC and GNSS, participate in the MMS and are not associated with a specific vessel;
- MOB devices; and
ISED does not notify the ITU-R when it issues MIs. Therefore, these identities are not found in the MARS database, which serves as a repository of international maritime information and is regularly updated through notifications by administrations. However, when applying for or registering an MI, you must provide ISED with the mandatory information specified on the appropriate application form, either form I or form J. Refer to section 7.3.
The MI formats for various types of devices are described in the following sections.
6.3.1 Hand-held VHF transceiver with DSC and GNSS not associated with a specific vessel
ISED assigns a unique number to a hand-held VHF transceiver in response to an appropriate request. This MI has a unique nine-digit format: 81M2I3D4X5X6X7X8X9 where digits 2, 3 and 4 represent the MID and where X is any number from 0 to 9. As noted in section 6.2.1, the MID represents the administration that is assigning the identity to the hand-held transceiver.
6.3.2 AIS-SARTs, MOB devices and EPIRB-AIS devices
MIs are preprogramed within an AIS-SART, a MOB device or an EPIRB-AIS device.
- AIS-SARTs use the format 917203X4X5Y6Y7Y8Y9, where X4X5 represents the manufacturer’s identification 01 to 99 and where Y6Y7Y8Y9 represents a sequence number from 0000 to 9999. After reaching 9999, the manufacturer should restart the sequence numbering at 0000.
- MOB devices use the format 917223X4X5Y6Y7Y8Y9, where X4X5 represents the manufacturer’s identification 01 to 99 and where Y6Y7Y8Y9 represents a sequence number from 0000 to 9999. After reaching 9999, the manufacturer should restart the sequence numbering at 0000.
- EPIRB-AIS devices use the format 917243X4X5Y6Y7Y8Y9, where X4X5 represents the manufacturer’s identification 01 to 99 and where Y6Y7Y8Y9 represents a sequence number from 0000 to 9999. After reaching 9999, the manufacturer should restart the sequence numbering at 0000.
As the federal government’s radio licensing authority, ISED is responsible for the issuance and management of MMSIs and of MIs for hand-held VHF transceivers with DSC and GNSS not associated with a specific vessel. You must register devices with preprogrammed MIs with ISED for incorporation into its database. Such devices include AIS-SARTs, EPIRB-AIS devices and MOB devices.
All information collected is entered into ISED’s National Maritime Information Database (NMID). The Department then provides any relevant information on stations with disclosed MMSIs to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for inclusion in their MARS database.
Information contained in the NMID is available on ISED’s Spectrum Management System website. Information in the MARS database is available on the ITU website. Both databases are used by the CCG and by related search and rescue agencies during emergencies. All information collected in the NMID can be accessed by the CCG and related search and rescue agencies, but only limited information within this database is available to the general public.
To obtain a unique identity, or register your preprogrammed identity, you must apply or register and provide specific information about your equipment. You can find the relevant application or registration form in the Forms section of our website under Maritime Mobile Service Identities, or access it from the Spectrum Management System. All devices must be certified under the applicable Canadian Radio Standard Specification. Completed forms must be sent to your nearest district office. If you submit your form online, it will automatically be directed to the appropriate district office based on the applicant’s address.
7.2 Obtaining an MMSI
To obtain an MMSI, applicants are required to provide specific information. MMSI application and notification forms are provided for the following:
- unlicensed ship station (form AB)
- licensed ship station (form AB)
- craft associated with a parent ship (form C)
- group ship station (form D)
- coast station (form E)
- search and rescue (SAR) aircraft (form F)
- AIS AtoN (form G)
If you require assistance with the application forms, contact your nearest district office.
7.2.1 Ship station MMSI
To obtain a ship station MMSI, you must complete form AB. Select Not Licensed for a vessel that does not require a radio licence and that is fitted with only a VHF/DSC radio. Select Licensed for a vessel that requires a radio licence or is fitted with additional equipment.
Annex A provides explanations of the ITU codes to be used in completing the MMSI application forms.
7.2.2 Group ship station MMSI
To apply for a group ship station MMSI, one person, acting as contact person on behalf of the group, must complete form D.
7.2.3 Craft associated with a parent ship MMSI
The parent ship must have an MMSI before a separate MMSI can be assigned to an associated craft. To apply for an MMSI for craft associated with a parent ship, you must complete form C. If MMSIs are required for both the parent ship and associated craft, then you must complete form AB as well as form C.
7.2.4 Coast station MMSI
To apply for a coast station MMSI, you must complete form E with the appropriate coast station information.
7.2.5 Search and rescue aircraft MMSI
To apply for a SAR aircraft MMSI, you must complete form F with the appropriate information relating to the aircraft and its equipment.
7.2.6 AIS AtoN MMSI
To obtain an AIS AtoN MMSI, you must first obtain approval from the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG). The CCG requires a brief description of the equipment and the intent for its use. The CCG can be reached by email.
Once you have obtained the CCG’s approval, you must complete form G and attach a copy of the approval upon submitting your application.
7.3 Obtaining an MI
The mandatory information that you must provide to ISED depends on the type of MI you are requesting. Each MI assignment is unique. There are two types of forms for MIs:
- an application form for a hand‑held VHF transceiver with DSC and GNSS not associated with a vessel (form I);
- a registration form for a preprogrammed AIS-SART, MOB device or EPIRB-AIS device (form J).
7.3.1 Hand-held VHF transceiver with DSC and GNSS not associated with a specific vessel
A hand-held VHF transceiver operating in the MMS may require a unique MI issued by ISED, which shows that the device has a restricted battery capacity and a restricted coverage area. In addition, the MI indicates that the device is not part of a ship station, which is information that may be useful in an emergency situation. The device must be used exclusively in the MMS. To obtain an MI for this purpose, complete form I.
7.3.2 Registering your preprogrammed MI with ISED
AIS-SARTs, MOB devices and EPIRB-AIS devices use free-form number identities provided by the manufacturer. By registering your preprogrammed MI with ISED, you are providing search and rescue personnel with the information they will need to assist you if you are in a distress situation. Therefore, it is recommended that you complete form J to register your preprogrammed MI with ISED.
7.4 Cancelling your MMSI
To cancel an existing MMSI, MI or a registered MI, you must complete the cancellation form.
8. Responsibilities of licensees, vessel owners and owners of a station operating in the MMS
It is important to maintain current and valid information for assigned identities contained in the NMID. Inaccurate information in this database may compromise rescue efforts in the event of an emergency. Licensees, vessel owners and owners of the stations operating in the MMS are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the information provided. They are also responsible for informing ISED of any changes to this information.
Vessel owners must also ensure that the radio transceivers on board their vessels are licensed, where necessary, and that the radio transceivers are operated by a holder of a valid Radio Operator Certificate.
9. Change of ownership
9.1 Vessel with radio equipment (ship station)
If ownership of a vessel changes and the vessel was sold with radio equipment that has an MMSI, the assigned MMSI number should not be changed (i.e. the MMSI should remain with the vessel). However, the new vessel owner must notify ISED of the change in ownership by completing form AB. If the change in vessel ownership involves a change in the country with which the vessel is registered, then a new MMSI must be assigned by that country and the existing MMSI must be cancelled. If a vessel becomes newly registered or newly owned in Canada, a new MMSI request must be submitted to ISED. Refer to section 7.2.
9.1.1 Radio equipment only
If the change in ownership is for radio equipment only, the MMSI must be cancelled. The new owner of the radio must either apply for a new MMSI using form AB, or have the radio programmed with the MMSI of the vessel on which the radio will be used. If the radio is programmed with the existing MMSI of the vessel, the new owner must complete form AB and select Modify an existing MMSI to update the contact information.
9.1.2 Subsequent installation of additional equipment
If an International Mobile Satellite Organization (INMARSAT) mobile earth station or other equipment is installed on a vessel that has a previously assigned MMSI, the vessel owner must notify ISED of these changes by submitting the appropriate MMSI form so that the NMID and MARS databases can be updated. ISED will determine whether the assigned MMSI number requires changes. Although unlikely, the MMSI number may need to be replaced and reprogrammed into all of the radio equipment. Refer to section 7.2.
9.2 Devices using MIs
9.2.1 Hand-held VHF transceiver with DSC and GNSS not associated with a vessel
When ownership changes for a hand-held VHF transceiver that uses DSC and GNSS and that is not associated with a vessel, the previous owner must advise ISED of the change. The MI may need to be cancelled. The MI may be retained, however, if both parties are in agreement and if the new owner provides the updated information to ISED. Complete form I to update the information.
9.2.2 Other devices
When ownership changes for a registered device, the previous owner must advise ISED of the change and the new owner must complete form J to register the MI.