Adventures in bureaucracy

Adventures in bureaucracy
EPIRBs and other emergency communications gear.

So, the boat builders mentioned that they have a temporary type C license for doing sea trials, but need a full type A license before we take delivery. To complete the Cat A Safety we need to register the EPIRB and send them the MMSI number.

So I set forth to register the EPIRB and get the MMSI number. In case you were wondering, “What’s an EPIRB and why do you need one”? Wikipedia will tell you:

An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or EPIRB is used to alert search and rescue services in the event of an emergency. It does this by transmitting a coded message via the free to use, multinational Cospas Sarsat network.

And in case you were also wondering “What’s an MMSI and why do you need one?” Wikipedia will tell you:

 “A Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) is a series of nine digits which are sent in digital form over a radio frequency channel in order to uniquely identify ship stations, ship earth stations, coast stations, coast earth stations, and group calls.”

Next question to Google: “How do I get an MMSI?”

Navigation Center: US Coast Guard: In order to obtain an MMSI, mariners required by regulation to carry a marine radio and those who travel outside the U.S. or Canada to foreign ports must apply to the Federal Communications Commission for a ship station license or an amendment to a ship station license. State and local governments can generally obtain an FCC ship station license at no charge.

US Federal Communications Commission: If your vessel requires licensing by the FCC you will obtain an MMSI number during the application/ licensing process when you file FCC Forms 159 and 605 with the FCC. 

Following the FCC Form 605 link (more about the Form 159 link later) took me to: Forms & Schedules Listed by Purposes for All Radio Services: This page contains many links, many documents, and many many forms to download and complete. After considerable review, I concluded that I needed a Ship Radio Service (47 CFR Part 80) FCC 605 Main Form. After downloading the PDF and trying to figure out how to complete and submit this form, I finally re-reviewed the page and noticed a tiny little link -seriously, it’s like eight point font- near the top:

To file electronically, click Online Filing. Aha! This is the link I actually need! Clicking on it took me to the FCC’s Universal Licensing System.  Which presented the options of “New User registration” or “File Online”. Since I wanted to file online, I clicked on File Online.  First field to complete: Enter your FCC Registration Number. Which I didn’t have, of course. So, I went back to “New User Registration and chose the first option: Register and receive your FRN .

First page of questions: “Are you registering as a business or an individual?” “Is your contact address within the United States or its territories?” So far so good, I can answer these. Next page: “Register your business.” Start by entering your Employee Identification Number (EIN) for your business.

Ah, but if I don’t have an EIN? Google to the rescue: “How do I get an EIN? First result straight from the US Internal Revenue Service: Tax ID/EIN Online Application. From here I got to select my entity type and complete the 28 field form. It informed me that In a while (a day or two) I’d be emailed your EIN. (in fact, it showed up the next afternoon.)

In the meantime, I went  back to the FRN application and under “If your business does not have an Employer Identification Number, selected the reason:  selected “EIN applied for.” Then filled out the rest of that form. I don’t remember how many fields there were on that one. A lot. But finally completed, okay, now I have an FRN! Yay!  

But not an MMSI. (Remember that? Which started the whole process?)

So I went back to the Universal Licensing System and now chose the ‘File Online’ option. Went through the workflow there – it wasn’t as long as getting the FRN – to get my call sign and request my MMSI.

But nothing comes for free in this world…

So once again I went back to the Universal Licensing System and this time tried the Pay Fees link on the left side. They take credit cards. Incidentally, this link/workflow replaces the FCC Forms 159 link referenced earlier, which is by no means obvious.

Once I paid the fee, they told me they’d send my MMSI in email. And sure enough, they did.

Next, registering the EPIRB! Stay tuned for more fun with bureaucracy!

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