ATIS number mandatory for UK boats on most European inland waterways

British boats using many of Europe’s inland waterways this season will have to get their radio licenses amended by Ofcom before departure and enable ATIS (Automatic Transmission Identification System) on their VHF sets.

However, despite attempting to unify the rules across Europe, individual countries’ VHF rules still apply and ATIS enforcement for leisure boaters appears to be minimal, according to boat owners currently traversing the canals. Updated 15/6/09

Frequently asked questions page on Ofcom website – v. useful

France, Germany, Holland and Belgium have decided to end the derogation for overseas vessels from the mandatory fitting of an ATIS-enabled VHF radio.

Like the MMSI number, your ATIS number can be used to identify you and your vessel.

Boat owners planning to use the inland waterways of Europe should contact OfCom, the UK radio regulator and request them to vary the Ship Radio Licence (SRL) and supply an ATIS number.

Can ATIS be used in the UK?
Update: 10/6/09
As the UK has not yet acceded to the Basel agreement, the variation to the ship radio licence only allows ATIS equipment to be used out with the territorial waters of the UK and Channel Islands. If the radio equipment does not have the facility to switch between ATIS and non-ATIS working, this may mean returning to the dealer to have the facility deactivated for use in the UK. In the UK, the equipment must operate within the parameters of the relevant Interface Requirement or other technical standard referred to in the ship radio licence document.

The process for ATIS is as follows:

1. The licensee must apply online for an MMSI (Maritime mobile service identification) number.
Note: This means that they will need a DSC VHF set. Ofcom is aware that some ATIS sets are not DSC capable.

2. The licensee must then request Ofcom to vary the SRL and to supply an ATIS number.
Note: The request can be by e-mail but must come from the licensee. Under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006, the licensee must request Ofcom to vary the licence. To process the request, Ofcom also need the licence number, vessel name (as on the licence), the call sign and the MMSI.

3. When requesting Ofcom to vary the licence, the licensee must authorise Ofcom to disclose licence details to BIPT (the Belgian telecoms regulator, which oversees the ATIS database) for the purposes of safety and ATIS administration, including making the details available to other member states. Note: This is a data protection requirement. Ofcom must be able to notify BIPT. If it cannot do so, it cannot vary the licence.

4. Ofcom shall then allocate an ATIS number and prepare the (NoV). Ofcom shall send this out with a covering letter.

5. Ofcom shall notify BIPT of the vessel details.
Note: The arrangement requires Ofcom to send the vessel name, call sign, ATIS code and MMSI number.

6. The licensee must print a copy of the Basel Arrangement from and keep it and the Notice of Variation with the ship radio licence documents.

7. The licensee must familiarise himself or herself with the provisions of the Basel Arrangement and note the arrangements for vessels from non-RAINWAT states at

8. When overseas, the licensee will be under the jurisdiction of the authorities in that country.

The following links may also help answer any further questions:

YBW forum thread