Friday, April 06, 2012

Ship Radiotelegraph Safety Rules

This booklet Ship Radiotelegraph Safety Rules was adopted by the FCC pursuant to the Communications act of 1934 and approved on May 20th, 1937. This booklet was printed and distributed later that year. This particular copy if marked in pencil with the date 12/16/37 so presumably that represents some kind of arrival date for the booklet. This copy originates in the collection of a state library in Massachusetts, remaindered of course.

The rule sin this book are out of date of course, but they applied then to all United States ships navigating the open sea outside a harbor or port and all United States and foreign ships which leave or attempt to leave any harbor or port of the United States. This excluded the following:
  • 1. Cargo ships weighing less than 1,600 gross tons (other requirements hereinafter specified)
  • 2. Ships of war
  • 3. Ships owned and operated by the US government
  • 4. Foreign ships belonging to nations party to the "International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, London 1929" carrying a valid certificate exempting them
  • 5. Yachts of less than 600 gross tons
  • 6. Vessels in tow
  • 7. Vessels exclusively navigating the area of the Great Lakes

For the most part, these rules regulated the radio units themselves and less so their operation. Regular inspections were required, as was licensing. Primarily it enforced a much earlier act that even predated the FRC. In 1910 the Ship Act was passed aka the "Act to Require Apparatus and Operators for Radio Communications on Certain Ocean Steamers" This law required certain types of  ships, foreign and domestic,  to carry and use radio at U.S. ports. The 1910 act (and its 1912 amendment) required the licensing of operators but not transmitters. Modern law is almost exactly the opposite. More here.

The original 1910 Ship act was completely neutral on make and model. This 1937 booklet is not so mild. It certifies only specific models for use as an auto alarm. In terms of transmitter and receiver, it's is more concerned with power and engineering specifics. Main and back up transmitters must be capable of operating on the distress frequency of 500 kc, the direction finder frequency of 275 kc, and between 350-485 kc. The receiver must additionally be capable of receiving transmissions between 100-200 kc and 350 - 515 kc.  The booklet goes on in great detail.

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