Hamming on the High Seas

Operating Maritime Mobile on Cruise Ships During some sixty years of hamming I have had many opportunities to operate portable and mobile on both aircraft and on small boats. Frequently, I had wondered about the possibility of using my ham gear aboard a cruise ship. Several friends who had served as radio officers aboard commercial cargo ships offered encouragement to investigate such a possibility. Having a ham wife (Norma, WA6MIK) with a love of travel, a desire to visit faraway destinations, and the ability to participate in our common hobby surely encouraged me further to search out such venues. Generally, we found that all radio communications aboard commercial vessels are conducted under cruise company policies and authority. As such, each company can set its own regulations about allowing itinerant operators any on-board privileges —i.e. ham operations. allowing itinerantA few years ago a cruise aboard a delightful passenger ship from London through the Baltic Sea to St. Petersburg, Russia, provided my first opportunity to explore the possibility of successful maritime mobile operation. More recently, my wife set her sights on a two-week cruise from Los Angeles to Hawaii and back, a perfect chance to it up”again while also enjoying the multitude of activities to be found while savoring the pleasures of cruising at sea. The first consideration for such a trip is meeting the ham operator licensing requirements of the country in which the ship is registered. This is important, because the shipcountry of registry may be different than either your point of departure or destination. This licensing authority must involve the country of shipregistry and, of course, any concerned country licensing requirements. Today this requirement can often (but not always) be circumvented because of the Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administration (CEPT) rules for participating countries. Seeking Permission Once licensing rules have been met, the actual operating authority generally is granted by the cruise linepolicies. As such, each company can set its own regulations about allowing itinerant operators any on-board radio privileges. The approval of the vesselMaster (Captain) and his Electro Technical Officer or Radio Officer, if any, is then requested. The preliminary communications for such a request must include the following items: 1. A carefully worded letter to the cruise linecustomer assistance personnel requesting permission to operate on the cruise ship. Included should be your date of sailing, the shipname, and your reservation information (with possible level of priority). 2. A clear description of your FCC amateur radio license authority (with a copy) and your radio communications experience level. 3. A description of equipment to be used, international amateur frequencies, power requirements, and antenna installation (everything to be portable and non ship-invasive). 4. A requirement for a small, secluded space for operating, preferably on an upper deck or from your stateroom balcony without any ship structural overhang (a clear shot for antennas). 5. Assurance of non-interference with normal ship communications and operations. 6. A statement promising complete cooperation with ship personnel and passengers.

allowing itinerantA careful assessment of all specific components of the radio package and the means of transportation together with any required support tools, etc., will be most helpful. The actual radio package for this trip included a small Kenwood TS-50 100-watt transmitter, a small MFJ switching power supply (115V to 12 VDC), and a small MFJ antenna tuner. The antenna itself was a former loaded mobile whip fastened to an aluminum channel and was to be strapped to the shipexternal railing on our balcony. Antenna return grounding was by means of two 7-foot lengths of copper braid connected by alligator clips to the railing frame.

Final Approval With all equipment in place prior to actual operations, the shipElectro-Technical Communications Officer was called for a final go-ahead. His main concerns, of course, were that there not be any interference with ship communications and the location of the ham antenna. The first call at sea on 20 meters was made on the popular MM (maritime-mobile) frequency of 14.300 MHz as the ship was departing the Los Angeles lighthouse. It was answered almost immediately by a plethora of most welcome calls. During the next two weeks of the cruise, over 40 contacts were logged, with stations as far away as OX3KQ in Greenland. All in all a very satisfying end to a fine adventure! Visit Oresund University Network site.  

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