Proper radio etiquette

The rise of handheld VHF has meant that mariners have radios with them at nearly all times for line of sight communication. But many mariners don’t use proper radio etiquette. After all, the most important thing to know about radio communication is how to communicate.

There is an accepted phonetic alphabet that should be learned or taped up by the marine radio so that the operator can be understood when communicating. Many people garble their words, swallow their sentences, talk too fast — and communications are misunderstood. For instance, in the case of describing the name of your vessel, in this case, GLORY, you would do this:  “This is the motor vessel GLORY. Golf, Lima, Oscar, Romeo, Yankee.”  By knowing the phonetic alphabet, there is less chance of misunderstanding, especially in the case of an emergency when people are under stress.

For your edification, here is the latest iteration of the phonetic alphabet:

A — Alpha
B — Bravo
C — Charlie
D — Delta
E — Echo
F — Foxtrot
G — Golf
H — Hotel
I — India
J — Juliet
K — Kilo
L — Lima
M — Mike
N — November
O — Oscar
P — Papa
Q — Quebec
R — Romeo
S — Sierra
T — Tango
U — Uniform
V — Victor
W — Whiskey
X — X-ray
Y — Yankee
Z — Zulu

If you need to spell out a word, you should say, “I spell,” and then spell it using the phonetic alphabet. For instance, call letters, in this case WCZ, would be “Whiskey, Charlie, Zulu.”   Numbers also need to be pronounced clearly, the convention being:

1 — Wun
2 — Too
3 — Tree
4 — Fow-er
5 — Fife
6 — Six
7 — Seven
8 — Ait
9 — Nin-er
0 — Zero

The NATO phonetic alphabet is the last iteration of an alphabet used for voice communication. It has evolved over the past 100 years and was deemed necessary because letters like M and N, B and P, sound like each other and a difference was necessary in order to distinguish them. Phonetic alphabets have been in use since the earliest days of radio communication. The one used by mariners today as well as the military was approved by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 1956. The first alphabet was agreed upon in 1927 and revised in 1932 and the alphabet was the following:

A — Amsterdam
B — Baltimore
C — Casablanca
D — Denmark
E — Edison
F — Florida
G — Gallipoli
H — Havana
I — Italia
J — Jerusalem
K — Kilogramme
L — Liverpool
M — Madagascar
N — New York
O — Oslo
P — Paris
Q — Quebec
R — Roma
S — Santiago
T — Tripoli
U — Upsala
V — Valencia
W — Washington
X — Xanthippe
Y — Yokohama
Z — Zurich

During World War II a new phonetic alphabet was employed by the allies. It was called the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet it read as the following:

A — Able
B — Baker
C — Charlie
D — Dog
E — Easy
F — Fox
G — George
H — How
I — Item
J — Jig
K — King
L — Love
M — Mike
N — Nan
O — Oboe
P — Peter
Q — Queen
R — Roger
S — Sugar
T — Tare
U — Uncle
V — Victor
W — William
X — X-ray
Y — Yoke
Z — Zebra

After the war the International Air Transport Association put together a new alphabet that was finally approved in 1956 and adopted by the ITU. This is the version that is in use today. Signing off: Delta, Alpha, Victor, Indigo, Delta.

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