HAM Radio 101

A Beacon of Safety at Sea: the Maritime Mobile Service Network

Founded with the intent to “Serve Those Who Serve,” the Maritime Mobile Service Network (MMSN) was launched in 1968 by Amateur Radio operators Winston (the Chaplain), KB5YX, formerly WB4AKB; Steve Rock, N4SR, formerly WA4YVQ; Don Van Horn, K1FZY, formerly WA4TPW; Mel White, WA4IQS; D. Freeman, K1YLI; J.G. Kincade, WA4YVX; Art Werner, K3QYQ; H. Bretches, K4DBR; L.B. Lapman, W4SAW; and G.W. Powell, WA4RRO.

At the time, U.S. naval vessels engaged in the Vietnam War were prohibited from onboard use of the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS), so the MMSN provided an invaluable workaround. Shore-side Hams ran phone patches for naval vessels (primarily 20 meters) to enable military communication with foreign vessels and ships on the high seas—communication highly beneficial from a military standpoint.

Today, the day-to-day tasks of the MMSN are less climactic. The network primarily handles legal third- party traffic and now works with civilian pleasure and commercial vessels in addition to military ships. With that said, the MMSN recently participated in the rescue of a stranded ship that you can read about here, where communication between the boat and the MMSN resulted in the network contacting the authorities for aid and lives being saved.

When not helping in daredevil rescues of stranded ships, the MMSN acts as a weather beacon for ships, providing tropical weather warnings, high seas weather updates, and news from the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center. The network additionally is used for communication with missionaries in foreign countries and volunteer net control stations in North America, the Caribbean, the Caribbean Seas, and the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The MMSN operates exclusively on the Global Emergency Center of Activity frequency of 14.300 MHz, and is operational daily from 12 pm to 9 pm Eastern Standard Time and 12 pm to 10 pm Eastern Daylight Time.

Amateur Radio operators are encouraged to join in the fun and check in with the MMSN. Those with a phone patch can notify the net control station and get to work as a volunteer!

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