® | Official Canadian Boating License

Calling Procedures

If your vessel is in distress or in need of emergency assistance, you can use the VHF channel 16 on your VHF marine radio. Channel 16 is reserved for emergencies only. Keep a list of emergency contacts on board. It is best to seek assistance early before the situation gets worse.

Use the following procedures in your broadcast:

  • “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday” – which indicates there is an immediate danger to persons or ship (for example, your boat is taking on water and you are in danger of sinking or capsizing);
  • “Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan” – indicates an urgent message concerning the safety of a person or ship but you are not in immediate danger (for example, your motor has quit and you cannot reach shore); or
  • “Securité, Securité, Securité” – indicates a message concerning the safety of navigation or important meteorological warnings.

After your broadcast, state the following:

  • Name of your vessel and call sign;
  • Position of your vessel / nearest landmark;
  • Description of the emergency;
  • Number of people onboard; and
  • Type of assistance required.


Two men both wearing lifejackets on a boat using a VHF radio to call for assistance.

Study Guide