CPC-2-3-07 — Obtaining Identities in the Maritime Mobile Service

Issue 7
Published: May 2013
Amendment: January 2018


Applicationforms related to maritime mobile service identities (MMSIs) are in the processof being converted from paper to online format. As a result, minor changes havebeen made to the document; however, the content has not changed.

Comments andsuggestions may be sent to the mailing or email address below.

Innovation, Science and EconomicDevelopment Canada (ISED)
SpectrumManagement and Operations Branch
235 Queen Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H5

Attention: Spectrum ManagementOperations

Email: MMSI

See the Spectrum Managementand Telecommunications website for all publications.

1. Principle

For reasons of safety andradiocommunication, a station that operates in the maritime mobile service may requirea unique identifier. The Radiocommunication Sector of the International TelecommunicationUnion (ITU‑R) has recommended the adoption of an international system ofautomatic station identification. Consequently, in its Radio Regulations,the ITU-R has adopted the assignment and use of identities in the maritimemobile service.

2. Intent

This document replaces Issue 6 of the ClientProcedures Circular CPC-2-3-07, Maritime Mobile Service Identities(MMSIs).

3. Scope

This Client Procedures Circular (CPC) providesinformation about identities in the maritime mobile service. It describes the requiredprocedures for communicating with Innovation, Science and Economic DevelopmentCanada (ISED) to obtain identities or to register preprogrammed identities.

4. Terms and definitions

Aids to navigation (AtoN): Radiocommunication stations that aid navigationat sea.

AIS search and rescuetransmitter (AIS-SART): A self-contained radio transmitter that usesstandard automatic identification system (AIS) Class A position reports to helpdetermine the location of a survival craft or distressed vessel.

Coast station: A land station in the maritime mobileservice.

Device: A transmitter or receiver, or a combinationof a transmitter and receiver, including accessory equipment necessary at onelocation for providing a radiocommunication service.

EPIRB-AIS: Emergency position-indicating radiobeacon with AIS locating functions.

Man overboard (MOB) device: A piece of equipment that is attached to a person and that sends analert if the person falls overboard.

Maritime mobile Access and RetrievalSystem (MARS): A remote online access and retrieval system that allows users toconsult the information currently registered in the InternationalTelecommunication Union’s maritime database system.

Maritime mobile service (MMS): A mobile service between coast stations and ship stations, betweenship stations or between associated on-board communication stations. Survivalcraft stations and emergency position-indicating radio beacon stations may alsoparticipate in this service.

Ship station: A mobile station operating in the maritimemobile service, located on board a vessel that is not permanently moored andnot intended solely for survival purposes.

Survival craft station: A mobile station that operates in the maritime mobile service and isintended solely for survival purposes. It may be located on a lifeboat, life raftor other survival equipment.

5. Eligibility

In Canada, identities in the maritimemobile service (MMS) are issued only to Canadian-owned stations operating in thisservice.

If you have questions about eligibility, contact your local ISED district office.

6. Policy

6.1 General

The use of identities has vastly improved theefficiency of radiocommunications in the MMS. It has been implemented through digitalselective 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 safetycommunications to be automated, which facilitates the transmission andreception of information essential to safety-of-life. DSC also allows communicationsthrough the public switched telephone network (PSTN), where available.

A station that uses DSC must be able to uniquelyidentify itself and, in most cases, to identify the intended addressee of thecall.Footnote 1 This identification is accomplished through the identity assigned to thestation.

To be issued identification, a station operatingin the MMS must hold a radio licence, unless it is exempt from licensing under section 15.2 of the RadiocommunicationRegulations.

There are two main types of identities: themaritime 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 DSCand a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) operating on board; coast stations; aircraft participating in search and rescueoperations; automatic identification system (AIS) aids to navigation; and craftassociated with a parent ship.

The MI is used to identify other maritimedevices, such as hand-held VHF transceivers with DSC and GNSS not associated witha specific ship station; AIS search and rescue transmitters (AIS‑SARTs);man overboard (MOB) devices; and emergency position-indicating radio beacons thatuse AIS technology (EPIRB‑AIS).

6.2 MMSIs

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 ofstation to which it is assigned. Every MMSI contains a three-digit identifier,called a MID (Maritime Identification Digits), which denotes the country orgeographical area of the administration responsible for the ship stationidentified.

6.2.2  Ship stations

Ship stations make up the most commoncategory of MMSIs assigned by ISED. The MMSI identifies the ship, not theequipment or vessel owner. Therefore, each vessel needs only one ship stationMMSI number, which can be programmed into all radio equipment on board.

All ship MMSIs use theformat M1I2D3X4X5X6X7X8X9,where the first three digits represent the MID and where X is any number from 0to 9. 

6.2.3 Groups of ship stations

A group ship station MMSI is typicallyissued when it is ideal for multiple ship stations to be contacted simultaneouslywith one call. Each ship station in such a group must also have an individual shipstation MMSI. To apply for a group ship station MMSI, the group must berepresented by a single contact person who completes formD. Refer to section 7.2.2.

A group ship station callidentity uses the format 01M2I3D4X5X6X7X8X9,where the first digit is zero and where X is any number from 0 to 9. The MIDrepresents only the territory or geographical area of the administration that isassigning the group ship station call identity and does not prevent group callsto fleets containing more than one ship nationality.

6.2.4 Coast stations

A coast station MMSI is typically issued toa coast station that will be involved with automatic communications withvessels. In general, coast station MMSIs are issued to Canadian Coast Guard (CCG)stations and the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation or to other coaststations with large fleets of vessels, such as a fishing company or tugboatoperation. Any such station also requires a radio licence.

All coast station callidentities use the format 0102M3I4D5X6X7X8X9,where digits 3, 4 and 5 represent the MID and where X is any number from 0 to9. Groups of coast radio stations use the same format.

6.2.5 Search and rescue aircraft

An MMSI and a radio licence are requiredfor a Canadian registered aircraft with automated radiocommunications equipmentthat is used for search and rescue communications with ship and coast stations.AIS and DSC equipment on search and rescue aircraft usesthe 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 thatare used as aids to navigation. Currently, there are two basic types of AtoNs: physicaland virtual. A physical AIS AtoN is typically a buoy emitting an AIS signal thatidentifies its location and other pertinent navigation information. A virtualAIS AtoN represents an AIS signal, emitted from a coast station that identifiespotentially dangerous locations or areas over water thereby assistingnavigation.

Each physical and virtual AIS AtoN, which isauthorized through the coast station’s radio licence, requires a unique MMSI.

An AIS AtoN uses theformat 9192M3I4D5Y6X7X8X9,where digits 3, 4 and 5 represent the MID and where X is any number from 0 to9. However, digit 6 is used to differentiate specific uses of the MMSI, as representedin the following:

PhysicalAIS AtoN
VirtualAIS AtoN

6.2.7  Craft associated with a parent ship

This category of MMSI is specific to life-savingcraft, such as lifeboats and life rafts associated with a parent ship. Eachlife-saving craft associated with a parent ship requires a unique MMSI. Allequipment on board each craft must use the same MMSI. This type of MMSI may beprogrammed into portable DSC equipment, provided this equipment remains withthe life-saving craft to which the MMSI is assigned.

AIS and DSC equipmenton craft associated with a parent ship uses the format 9182M3I4D5X6X7X8X9, where digits 3, 4 and 5represent the MID and where X is any number from 0 to 9.

6.3  MIs

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;
  • AIS-SARTs;
  • 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 formJ. Refer to section 7.3.

The MI formats for various types of devices are described in thefollowing sections.

6.3.1 Hand-held VHF transceiver with DSC and GNSS not associated with a specific vessel

ISED assigns aunique number to a hand-held VHFtransceiver in response to an appropriate request. This MI has a unique nine-digitformat: 81M2I3D4X5X6X7X8X9where digits 2, 3 and 4 represent the MID and where X is any number from 0 to9. As noted in section 6.2.1, the MID represents the administration that isassigning 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 MOBdevice 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.

7. Procedures

7.1 General

As the federal government’s radio licensingauthority, ISED is responsible for the issuance and management of MMSIs and ofMIs for hand-held VHF transceivers with DSC and GNSS not associated with aspecific vessel. You must register devices with preprogrammed MIs with ISED for incorporationinto its database. Such devices include AIS-SARTs, EPIRB-AIS devices and MOBdevices.

All information collected is entered into ISED’sNational Maritime Information Database (NMID). The Department then provides anyrelevant information on stations with disclosed MMSIs to the InternationalTelecommunication Union (ITU) for inclusion in their MARS database.

Information contained in the NMID isavailable on ISED’s Spectrum ManagementSystem website.  Information in the MARS database is available on the ITUwebsite. Both databases are used by the CCG and by related search and rescueagencies during emergencies. All information collected in the NMID can beaccessed by the CCG and related search and rescue agencies, but only limitedinformation within this database is available to the general public.

To obtain a unique identity, or registeryour preprogrammed identity, you must apply or register and provide specificinformation about your equipment. You can find the relevant application or registrationform in the Formssection of our website under Maritime Mobile Service Identities, or access itfrom the SpectrumManagement System. All devicesmust be certified under the applicable Canadian Radio Standard Specification. Completedforms must be sent to your nearest districtoffice. If you submit your form online, it will automatically be directedto the appropriate district office based on the applicant’s address.

7.2 Obtaining an MMSI

To obtain an MMSI, applicants are requiredto provide specific information. MMSI application and notification forms areprovided 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 theapplication forms, contact your nearest district office.

7.2.1 Ship station MMSI

To obtain a ship station MMSI, you mustcomplete formAB. Select Not Licensed for a vessel that does not require a radiolicence and that is fitted with only a VHF/DSC radio. Select Licensed fora vessel that requires a radio licence or is fitted with additional equipment.            

Annex A provides explanationsof 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, oneperson, acting as contact person on behalf of the group, must complete form D.

7.2.3 Craft associated with a parentship MMSI

The parent ship must have an MMSI before aseparate MMSI can be assigned to an associated craft. To apply for an MMSI forcraft associated with a parent ship, you must complete formC. If MMSIs are required for both the parent ship and associated craft,then you must complete form ABas well as form C.

7.2.4 Coast station MMSI

To apply for a coast station MMSI, you mustcomplete form E with the appropriate coast stationinformation.

7.2.5 Search and rescue aircraft MMSI

To apply for a SAR aircraft MMSI, you mustcomplete form F with the appropriate informationrelating to the aircraft and its equipment.

7.2.6 AIS AtoN MMSI

To obtain an AIS AtoN MMSI, you must firstobtain approval from the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG). The CCG requires a briefdescription of the equipment and the intent for its use. The CCG can be reachedby email.

Once you have obtained the CCG’s approval,you must complete form G and attach a copy of theapproval upon submitting your application. 

7.3 Obtaining an MI

The mandatory information that you mustprovide to ISED depends on the type of MI you are requesting. Each MIassignment 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 inthe MMS may require a unique MI issued by ISED, which shows that the device hasa restricted battery capacity and a restricted coverage area. In addition, theMI indicates that the device is not part of a ship station, which is informationthat may be useful in an emergency situation. The device must be usedexclusively 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 yourpreprogrammed MI with ISED, you are providing search and rescue personnel withthe information they will need to assist you if you are in a distress situation.Therefore, it is recommended that you complete form J toregister your preprogrammed MI with ISED.

7.4 Cancelling your MMSI

To cancel an existing MMSI, MI or a registered MI, you must complete the cancellationform.

8. Responsibilities of licensees, vessel owners and owners of a stationoperating in the MMS

It is important to maintain current andvalid information for assigned identities contained in the NMID. Inaccurateinformation in this database may compromise rescue efforts in the event of anemergency. Licensees, vessel owners and owners of the stations operating in theMMS are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the information provided. Theyare also responsible for informing ISED of any changes to this information.

Vessel owners must also ensure that theradio transceivers on board their vessels are licensed, where necessary, andthat the radio transceivers are operated by a holder of a valid Radio OperatorCertificate.

9. Change of ownership

9.1  Vessel with radio equipment (ship station)

If ownership of a vessel changes and thevessel was sold with radio equipment that has an MMSI, the assigned MMSI numbershould 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 whichthe vessel is registered, then a new MMSI must be assigned by that country andthe existing MMSI must be cancelled.If a vessel becomes newly registered or newly owned in Canada, a new MMSIrequest must be submitted to ISED. Refer to section 7.2.

9.1.1 Radio equipment only

If the change in ownership is for radioequipment 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 radiowill be used. If the radio is programmed with the existing MMSI of the vessel,the new owner must complete form ABand select Modify an existing MMSI to update the contact information.

9.1.2 Subsequent installation of additional equipment

If an International Mobile SatelliteOrganization (INMARSAT) mobile earth station or other equipment is installed ona vessel that has a previously assigned MMSI, the vessel owner must notify ISEDof these changes by submitting the appropriate MMSI form so that the NMID andMARS databases can be updated. ISED will determine whether the assigned MMSInumber requires changes. Although unlikely, the MMSI number may need to bereplaced 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 andGNSS not associated with a vessel

When ownership changes for a hand-held VHFtransceiver 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 thenew 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 completeform J to register the MI.