5th Oct 2023
Released On 2nd Jun 2023
Best VHF Marine Radios for 2023
Our range of VHF marine radio equipment is suitable for use on most seagoing craft, from small yachts to super-yachts, ferries and boatyards, all around the world. In this guide, we've selected radios that include useful features for radio communication between vessels and ship-to-shore, as well as our suggestions for the best radio for interior cabin crew, the best radio for deck and engine room personnel, and the best full-dispay models.
We supply VHF marine radio equipment to yacht fitters, ferries and boatyards, as well as owners of private and commercial vessels. If this is your first purchase of a marine radio, take advantage of our free expert advice - our friendly team can talk you through the various features and help you make the right choice.
Best radio for internal cabin crew
Small, lightweight, and discreet radios that can slip into a pocket are ideal for customer-facing crew that communicate with each other mostly indoors. That's why RadioTrader recommends the stylish Hytera BP365 for internal cabin crew. It meets all these criteria and more, with a robust build, exceptional audio quality and extensive functionality. View or buy this product.
Best radio for deck and engine room
In these areas you'll need a radio that's extremely robust and waterproof, with noise-cancelling technology to filter out background noise. RadioTrader recommends the Hytera HP605. It's IP67 rating means it's waterproof, communication is loud and clear, and an impressive Li-Polymer battery lasting up to 20 hours between charges - ideal for long shifts. It also provides better connectivity both in marginal areas of coverage and indoors, where obstacles would normally detract from coverage. It's sister radio, the Hytera HP605G, also benefits from GPS (GPS, GLONASS, GPS+GLONASS) and integrated Bluetooth 5.0 BLE+EDR. View or buy this product.
Best full-display marine radio
In our opinion, the Hytera HP785 is the best full-display marine radio currently available. It offers best-in-class audio, an impressive IP68 rating for all-weather use, 24-hours battery use, AI noise-cancellation technology and a large screen display, allowing for further features such as caller ID and private individual calling. There's an extensive range of functionality, including various safety and emergency features to help keep crew safe. A closely related related product, the Hytera HP785G, includes all this, plus GPS/GNSS/GLONASS and Bluetooth. View or buy this product.
A new radio solution for boats - Push-to-Talk over Cellular systems
Connect Plus is a Push-to-Talk Over Cellular (POC) network that offers a total solution for communication at sea through Wi-Fi, and onshore via the existing LTE cellular network. This means that staff and crew can be in constant contact with the vessel at all times. Connect Plus can be used either on a compatible POC radio such as the RugGear 650 or RugGear RG360, or on your existing smartphone using the Connect Plus app.
Useful features for VHF marine radios
A VHF or UHF marine radio is an essential and potentially life-saving item of equipment at sea and on inland waterways such as rivers and lakes, both on safety grounds and for general communication. Some features you'll find particularly useful when choosing a VHF two-way radio are:
Unsurprisingly, maritime radios get wet! Ensure yours isn’t just splash-proof, but meets or exceeds the basic IPX7 rating, which offers complete protection for submersion up to 1 metre deep for at least 30 minutes.
Various scenarios could lead to a radio being dropped into the sea, lake or river. Some marine radios are now designed to float in the water – simply pick it up and carry on using the radio as normal.
The Icom IC-M25 is a great example. The unique feature of this handheld VHF marine radio is its clever Float ‘n’ Flash feature – if dropped in water the Icom IC-M25 will become buoyant and emit a flashing red LED to help you find it again. Aside from this feature, the IC-M25 is IPX7 submersible, just like the Motorola DP3441e above, typically has an 11-hour battery life and it's priced at a very affordable entry-level price-point.
Marine radios with a built-in GPS receiver show your current position and can be used for distress calls.
For added peace of mind, some radios incorporate a distress alert. Known as DSC radios, they function just like other VHF marine radios with a couple of other features, enabling you to send an emergency distress signal to the coastguard, as well as other vessels equipped with DSC radios.
Do you need a licence for a VHF marine radio?
Not just anyone can use a VHF marine radio. To operate this equipment - both fixed and handheld radios - on a UK-flagged vessel, you must have, at the minimum, the Marine Radio Short Range Certificate (SRC). This is a legal requirement. The SRC, which must be successfully completed at a recognised training centre, instructs users in radio etiquette and procedures, digital selected calling (DSC) and emergency procedures.
In addition, all marine radios require both the user and the vessel to hold a relevant licence. The vessel's licence is the key to obtaining a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number, a series of nine digits which uniquely identifies your vessel.
Other uses for marine radios
Although safety is foremost in everyone’s mind, marine radios aren’t just for emergency situations.
- Let larger vessels know where you are
- Listen to routine weather forecasts
- Check navigational warnings broadcast on VHF and MF at 4-hourly intervals around the UK coastline
- Communicate with harbours, locks, bridges and marinas
- Talk to other people at sea on one of your radio’s many channels
If you’re serious about investing in your safety at sea, browse our full range of VHF marine radio equipment and take advantage of our other services to purchase compatible radio accessories, help with programming and licencing your two way radios.
A case study
Ryan, a long-standing RadioTrader customer, is Chief Officer on a 171.59 foot luxury motor yacht with 5 cabins and room for 10 guests and 13 crew. RadioTrader supplied the yacht with its radio equipment and Ryan has outlined some of the reasons it is so useful on board.
- When the ship is entering or leaving port radios provide an information link between the mooring stations and the Captain as he is manoeuvring the vessel into position. They also provide a link between the Engine room and Wheelhouse with the aid of the “over-the -head headset and noise cancelling boom microphone”
For a similar headset, RadioTrader recommends:
Motorola DP2000, DP3441e, DP3661e Noise Cancelling, Over-the-Head, Heavy Duty Headset
- During emergency situations and drills, two way radios provide a constant stream of information to the Command team and allow them to issue orders and delegate tasks.
- Marine radios provide general communications between crew on board when coordinating jobs.
Ryan told us, “All crew on board yachts are issued with personal UHF radios. We currently operate on single-channel without guests on board, and multi-channel once we are busy and require less cross-talk. We have 13 crew in total.
“The Deck and Engineering teams need more robust radios (without a screen that could break), IP67 waterproofing, and a larger antenna for greater range when away from the vessel in tenders (small boats) or ashore.
“The interior team is more matched to discreet radios that suit their uniforms and do not attract attention from the guests. The interior team will always wear a headset when we have guests on board the vessel to avoid any unwanted noise disturbing the guests. They use a Bluetooth headset and have two units each so one can be constantly on charge.
“I am also aware of larger yachts requiring repeater units on board to help the communications travel through the steel and aluminium structure of the ship.”
For help selecting, licencing or programming your marine radio equipment, contact our friendly team.
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