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Distress, urgency and calls

All emergency distress calls - VHF channel 16 or phone *500

MAYDAY: use if a vessel, aircraft or person is in grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance.

PAN PAN: use to indicate that a vessel has a very urgent message to transmit about its safety, such as loss of steering.

Note: when MAYDAY is not warranted but urgency is required for the safety of a vessel or person, PAN PAN should be used. Calls and messages must be cancelled if assistance is no longer required or when the incident is over.

Other ways to signal distress

There are a number of other ways to signal that you are in distress on the water. These include:

  • Slowly and repeatedly raising and lowering your arms outstretched to each side.
  • Continuously sounding a fog horn or siren.
  • Using a hand-held flare or parachute flare showing a red light.
  • Signalling SOS by any signal method, including sound, light or mirror. The SOS signal is: three shorts, three longs, three shorts.
Use these signals only to indicate distress

Radio distress calling protocol.