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IARU - Region 2 and MMSN


At the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 1 meeting in 2005, it was decided that certain frequencies on certain amateur bands would be designated as "Global Center Of Activity" (GCOA) frequencies.  The purpose of establishing the GCOA frequencies was to designate a place for passing emergency traffic on amateur frequencies, should the need arise.

The following are the established GCOA frequencies:  21,360 KHz, 18,160 KHz, 14,300 KHz, 7,240 KHz, 7,060 KHz, 3,985 KHz and 3,750 KHz.  These can also be viewed at

The frequencies have now been adopted by ALL IARU regions.  These frequencies are recognized world wide!

So, what does this mean?  It means that the GCOA frequencies should be protected from normal amateur use, contesting, digital modes and other transmissions.

Currently, 14,300 KHz is used by three recognized and well respected nets that have a long established track record of handling emergency traffic from maritime mobile stations, deployed missionaries and any one else that needs assistance.  Over the years the nets have documented hundreds of incidents where emergency, medical, search & rescue and other types of life and death traffic has been passed.  This frequency, even before the IARU recognition, had become the de facto emergency frequency on 20 meters, thanks to the hard work of the nets involved.

The MMSN, in particular, has been formally recognized for it's work with emergency traffic by the Dept. of Homeland Security, the United States Coast Guard and the National Weather Service, to mention a few.

But nobody owns a frequency!  Quite correct.  Nobody can lay claim to any frequency in any of the amateur bands.  However, the nets operating on 14,300 KHz are not involved in casual conversation.  They are, in effect, guarding the frequency and monitoring it for any station that needs assistance.  Stations checking into the nets help to keep the frequency occupied and act as relay stations for the net controller who may not otherwise hear a station in distress due to propagation conditions.

What About The Contesters?  Efforts are underway with the major contest sponsors, namely the ARRL, CQ magazine and the IARU, to prohibit contesting on or near the GCOA frequencies.  Some suggestions have been put forward and continued lobbying is progressing favourably.  We have always said that although contesting can be scheduled, emergencies cannot.

At the August 2007 Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (GAREC) convention in Hunstville, AL, David Sumner K1ZZ - CEO of the ARRL, undertook to meet with the ARRL contest committees and revamp the contest rules to protect the COA frequencies.

Here is a quote from the ARRL web page and the URL for the complete text.

GAREC also asked Amateur Radio contest organizers to include a provision in their rules that contest participants avoid frequencies in the immediate vicinity of the Center of Activity frequencies (as proposed at GAREC-05); these frequencies are 14.300, 18.160 and 21.360 MHz.  According to Pitts (ARRL spokes person), "This would minimize interference to weak or distant stations which may be passing emergency traffic, but not heard in the contest din."  (

Although the MMSN is by no means opposed to contesting, we ask that stations participating in a contest remember the GCOA frequencies and give them at least a 5 KHz berth.  This will ensure that any weak station in distress can be heard by someone.  As it is right now (Oct 2007), a ship in distress and calling for assistance on 14,300 KHz during a major contest, stands a much greater than normal chance of not being heard due to the contest interference.  This can greatly impact on the lives of those people in distress.  If you participate in SSB contests, we ask for your understanding and assistance in keeping the GCOA frequencies clear.

73 to all...

Tom Job, VE3II
Assistant Manager
Maritime Mobile Service Network