FCC Great Lakes Vessel Inspection: Richard Clem


Great Lakes Radio Inspections from $300

Under the "Great Lakes Agreement", a treaty between the United States and Canada, "compulsory ships" on the Great Lakes must be equipped with radio, and inspected at least once every thirteen months. The following vessels come under this provision:


47 CFR 80.951.

Generally, such vessels must be equipped with a VHF radio. Vessels 38 meters (124 feet) or longer must have two VHF radios. The regulations contain various requirements for the transmitters, receivers, antennas, and power supplies. None of these requirements are particularly difficult to meet, and almost all vessels equipped with a VHF transceiver will easily meet them.

The treaty, and the FCC regulations, require that the radio installation must be inspected at least once every 13 months. The inspection must be done while the vessel is in service, or one month prior to going into (or returning to) service. Until 1996, these inspections were conducted by FCC personnel. But in that year, the FCC amended its rules, and government employees no longer conduct these inspections. Instead, thee inspections now "must be made by a technician holding one of the following: an FCC General Radiotelephone Operator License, a GMDSS Radio Maintainerís License, a Second Class Radiotelegraph Operatorís Certificate, or a First Class Radiotelegraph Operatorís Certificate." 47 CFR ß 80.953(b). The rules also specify that the inspector cannot be "the vesselís owner, operator, master, or an employee of any of them."

I hold the FCC General Radiotelephone Operator License (license number PG1619371) and am authorized and qualified to conduct this inspection. You can view my listing on the FCC website at this link, and you can view a PDF copy of my license from the FCC website at this link..

The inspection normally takes about two hours. The ship's master or a representative should be present or available during the inspection. During the inspection, I will check all of the items on the FCC's inspection checklist. These will include checks of the vessel's power supply and the transmit and receive functions of the VHF transceiver. I will also check the matching of the antenna to the transmitter (an "SWR check"). If the vessel is equipped with EPIRB (required for vessels operating more than three miles from shore), I will also inspect and test the EPIRB.

For vessels on Lake Superior, my fee is $300, plus 56.5 cents per mile road mileage from Duluth. For vessels on Lake Michigan, my fee is $400, plus 56.5 cents per mile road mileage from Milwaukee or Chicago. If the inspection includes an EPIRB test, there is an additional $30 fee. (The actual EPIRB test is conducted through an outside provider and is actually done "live" through the satelite, and this represents their fee for this service.)

If you've looked around my website, you'll see that I'm an unusual radio inspector. I'm not employed as an electronics technician--I'm actually a lawyer. But I have held the GROL license since 1987, and I've held the predecessor FCC licenses since the 1970's. Even though this is a sideline for me, I am fully qualified and licensed to provide this service, I have the necessary test equipment, and I can do the inspection at a reasonable price. I won't use the inspection as an opportunity to sell you any products or services, since I don't have any to sell. If I note any deficiencies, I'll recommend the best way to correct them, safely, and as inexpensively as possible.

I will work with you to make sure you pass the inspection. According to the FCC, fewer than 1% of Great Lakes vessels fail the inspection. I suspect that most of those which do fail are due to easily correctible problems, such as not having a copy of the regulations aboard, or not having the license properly displayed. You can help ensure that you are not part of this 1% by following this pre-inspection checklist. If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know, and I'll help you make sure the inspection is successful. On the other hand, I do take the safety of life responsibility seriously, and I will not cut corners or "pencil whip" an inspection. I am licensed to conduct inspections of all compulsory ships on the Great Lakes. I am also licensed to inspect some (but not all) compulsory ships in coastal service. Please contact me if you have any questions regarding such inspections.

If you would like to schedule an inspection or if you have any questions, please contact me by e-mail at clem.law@usa.net or give me a call at 612-378-7751. Normally, I can schedule an inspection within about two days of being contacted. I'm located in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.


Books by Richard Clem


Plain-English Study Guide for the FCC Marine Radio Operator Permit
Plain-English Study Guide for the General Radiotelephone Operator License (GROL)

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Copyright 2010-2013, Richard P. Clem.
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Richard P. Clem
PO Box 14957
Minneapolis, MN 55414
Phone: 612-378-7751
e-mail: clem.law@usa.net