The U.S. Coast Guard now has VHF Digital Selective Calling (DSC) capability with limited coverage in Southcentral and Southeast Alaska. The initial coverage areas will be Upper Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Valdez Arm, Ketchikan, Juneau and Yakutat. Other areas including Sitka are expected to be covered in the next year. Mariners are reminded to ensure that they have properly connected their GPS units to their DSC equipped marine VHF radios and registered for their Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) to utilize the DSC distress function. Additional information is available through the Alaska Outdoors Forum or by contacting Mike Folkerts with the Coast Guard District 17 Boating Safety Office at 907-463-2297 or Michael.email@example.com.
A good educational resource on DSC is the tutorial at http://www.boatus.org/dsc/. However, the DSC capabilities will be more limited in Alaska than the Rescue 21 program in the lower 48 states since we will not have direction finding capability as Alaska terrain and vast remote areas preclude that function.
Note: the DSC requirement for commercial fishing vessels only applies to vessels displacing more than 300 gross tons. There is an exemption for vessels of less than 300 gross tons displacement.