How to Get a Marine Radio Operator Permit in 2024?

Deck Officer on deck of offshore vessel or ship

Obtaining your marine radio operator permit from the FCC is only a necessity under certain circumstances (1), but they allow you to operate marine radios aboard any craft you command.

You can obtain one relatively easily by taking an online course. One of the best resources for the FCC MROP is the online course and exam from Mariners Learning System. They are recognized as an authority on the testing by the US Coast Guard.

How to get a marine radio operator permit?

If you plan on operating a vessel at sea with any regularity, or if required by your boating situation, you should plan on getting your fcc marine radio operator permit to ensure you are operating legally. To do this, many people choose an online mrop license course that will prepare them and allow them to test for the needed certificate.

Most online facilities will offer a combination of study materials as well as marine radio license testing for those that are ready. This will often have a nominal cost attached to it, between $100 and $200 in many cases.

The Mariners Learning System offers an fcc radio operator’s permit course that is just over $100 and offers study materials, and testing for the license, along with all of the FCC registration needed to complete the permit process.

Upon fulfilling the VHF radio license requirements, the student will have their FCC Federal Registration Number as well as the permit required to operate their radiotelephone lawfully.

What is Marine Radio Operator Permit?

A marine radio operator permit is the permit required by the FCC in several situations both at sea and along the coast, involving radiotelephone usage in the medium and high-frequency ranges. It is a permit required to lawfully operate a radiotelephone station aboard any vessel so equipped. Once the permit is obtained it is valid for life.

The radiotelephone operator permit is also required to operate radiotelephones on commercial vessels or those that may operate in tidewaters or open seas. In some circumstances, these stations may also be required to communicate certain aviation conditions, or onboard many vessels navigating the Great Lakes.

The fcc marine radio license is tested as a 24 question test where the testee will need to answer at least 18 correctly to pass. Other licenses can be obtained as well, including the Second Class Radiotelegraph Operator’s Certificate, and the Third Class Radiotelegraph Operator’s Certificate.


There are only a few qualifications for getting your marine VHF license, but you must be able to satisfy them all to test for your permit (2). To qualify for the FCC MROP you must:

  • Be able to prove you are a legal citizen or otherwise legal resident who is eligible to be employed in the United States
  • Be capable of transmitting and receiving spoken messages in English as the radio operator
  • Pass the written or telegraphy exam or test needed for VHF radio licensing.

The test or exam that is required will be administered directly by the entity that is providing your VHF radio course and will result in receiving proof of completion as required by the FCC. For the marine radio operator permit, you will need to pass a single written element that covers the basics of radio law and operations. The passing cutoff is a minimum of 18 correct out of 24.

Do You Need a Marine Radio Operator Permit?

There are some situations in which having VHF radio licenses will be a mandatory condition of the lawful and legal operation of your vessel.

The FCC mandates that the operator of a vessel must hold a VHF radio license if the vessel is over 300 gross tons, and is required by appropriate law to carry a radio station. The same also applies if the vessel is longer than 20 meters and is navigating the Great Lakes.

If your vessel is longer than 8 meters and involved in any towing activity on the Great Lakes, the operator is also required to have their VHF license. An MROP is also mandatory if the vessel can carry more than six passengers and is for hire in any tidewater or open sea environment.

The final condition that may require you or a member of your crew to have their permit is if any radios utilize the medium frequency or high-frequency range (3).

Types of Licenses

  • Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit (RR)
  • Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit – Limited Use (RL)
  • Marine Radio Operator Permit (MP)
  • General Radiotelephone Operator License (PG)
  • GMDSS Radio Operator License (DO)
  • Restricted GMDSS Radio Operator License (RG)
  • GMDSS Radio Maintainer License (DM)
  • Third Class Radiotelegraph Operator Certificate (T3)
  • Second Class Radiotelegraph Operator Certificate (T2)
  • First Class Radiotelegraph Operator Certificate (T1)
  • Radiotelegraph Operator License (T)

Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit (RR)

The RR permit allows the holder to operate most ground stations, but they are also permitted to operate radiotelephone stations on pleasure crafts that do not carry more than 6 passengers for hire, where MP licensing is required.

RR permitting is not needed if the radio operates only in the VHF range and does not communicate or travel internationally. It is also not needed for any operation of radar, survival craft, coast stations, or aircraft VHF-only stations. 

The qualifications require that the holder be a legal resident, able to speak and hear, able to keep a written log, and able to become familiar with the laws that govern your radio’s operation (4).

Marine Radio Operator Permit (MP) 

The MP is only required if you operate a vessel over 300 tons, carry more than 6 passengers and are for hire, or fit other specific measurement criteria. To qualify you must be a legal resident, able to operate in English and be able to pass the certification test (5).

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