Savannah and Brunswick are both ports and both lie along the Intracoastal Waterway. The Georgia coast is also home to many commercial shrimpers, recreational boaters, and marinas, making for a high level of Marine VHF activity. On this page, I hope to give you starting points of where to listen for both commercial and recreational Marine VHF activity in the Savannah and Brunswick areas.
The US Coast Guard’s website has a complete list of Marine VHF Channels used in the United States showing their channel number, frequency, and designated usage. That is a handy list to keep linked on your browser, saved to a file, or printed off for your station. Many scanners also have the Marine VHF Channels preprogrammed in a service search bank, so it isn’t hard to monitor or search for Marine VHF activity. The frequencies below, however, are some common and frequently used ones in both Savannah and Brunswick, good to program into a scanner or 2-Meter radio if you’re looking to monitor maritime activity around the coastal Georgia area.
The first Marine VHF channels to consider are channels 16 and 22. I consider Channel 16 to be a must since it is the hailing and distress frequency; any vessel, commercial or recreational would use it to make calls for help and it is also used to make initial contact then move communications off to another working channel. Channel 22 is a Coast Guard channel that is used for liaison between the Coast Guard and the public; the Coast Guard will move callers over to Channel 22 after initial contact on Channel 16 and they also use it to make notice to mariner and special broadcasts after announcing them on Channel 16. Channel 9 is a boater calling frequency that is used for multiple purposes, including along the Intracoastal Waterway to call drawbridges for openings.
- 156.800 – Ch 16 – Hailing and Distress
- 157.100 – Ch 22 – USCG/Public Liason
- 156.450 – Ch 09 – Intracoastal Waterway Drawbridges
The next set of channels in this list is one used by commercial interests such as shipping, tugboats, river pilots, and other entities around the Savannah and Brunswick ports. Channels 14 and 12 are used by river pilots in Savannah and Brunswick respectively to contact vessels that they will be bringing up the river and into port. Channel 13 is the designated navigations safety frequency that any vessel longer than 65 feet is required to monitor and is used to coordinate marine traffic. Channels 18, 19, 66, 67, 73, and 74 are commercial and intership frequencies used to coordinate activity between pilots, tugs, and linehandlers as they maneuver and dock ships in the port.
- 156.700 – Ch 14 – River Pilots, Savannah
- 156.600 – Ch 12 – River Pilots, Brunswick
- 156.650 – Ch 13 – Safety of Navigation
- 156.900 – Ch 18 – River Pilots and Tugs
- 156.950 – Ch 19 – Pilots to Tugs, Linehandlers
- 156.325 – Ch 66 – Pilots to Tugs and Linehandlers
- 156.375 – Ch 67 – Pilots to Tugs and Linehandlers
- 156.675 – Ch 73 – Pilots to Tugs and Linehandlers
- 156.725 – Ch 74 – Pilots to Tugs and Linehandlers
The following channels are set aside for non-commercial use by recreational boaters and other interests such as marinas. VDSMS (VHF Digital Small Message Services) is approved for use on some of them so you may hear short bursts of digital noise in addition to FM voice traffic.
- 156.425 – Ch 68 – Recreational Boating
- 156.475 – Ch 69 – Recreational Boating
- 156.575 – Ch 71 – Recreational Boating
- 156.625 – Ch 72 – Recreational Boating
- 156.925 – Ch 78 – Recreational Boating
This last set of channels is a mix of channels from above, but I include them again because they’re also used by shrimpers. Earlier this year (and in previous years) around the time commercial shrimping season began, I heard some speech inversion on Marine VHF Channel 81 (157.075) in Savannah, Brunswick, and areas in between. Channel 81 is set aside for Federal Government use, but I’m not aware of any federal agencies or services that would use speech inversion on it; my suspicion is that it’s a group of shrimpers trying to hide who they are and where they are In addition to popping up almost anywhere on Marine VHF, shrimpers are also known to use CB radio and bootleg on other VHF frequencies from other services including the 2-Meter amateur radio band.
- 156.625 – Ch 72 – Shrimpers
- 156.675 – Ch 73 – Shrimpers
- 156.725 – Ch 74 – Shrimpers
- 156.875 – Ch 77 – Shrimpers
Marine VHF band monitoring can provide a lot of listening depending on where you are. If you’re close to Savannah or Brunswick, you’ll more activity due to the ports, but if you’re farther away you can still hear recreational boaters, fishermen, and shrimpers. Hopefully, the frequencies above give you an idea of where to start if you’re interested in listening to the activity on and around the coastal Georgia waters.
While the Coast Guard has primarily moved to a set of digital channels from Marine VHF for their agency communications, there is still occasional Coast Guard traffic on Marine VHF and the Coast Guard Auxilliary is still using Marine VHF. You might even hear a P-8A Poseidon hailing the Coast Guard on Marine VHF Channel 16 from time to time. In the coastal Georgia area, there are Coast Guard stations in Savannah (at Tybee Island) and in Brunswick. Coast Guard Air Station Savannah is located at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah and is home to five MH-65D Dolphin helicopters. In the listing below, $### indicates the P25 Network Access Code being used on that frequency.
- 163.1375 ($293) – Coast Guard Station Tybee (usually encrypted)
- 164.9000 ($293) – Coast Guard Station Brunswick (usually encrypted)
- 413.0000 ($293) – Coast Guard Sector Charleston Air Ops (usually encrypted)
- 157.0500 – Marine VHF Ch 21
- 345.000 (AM) – Coast Guard Air Station Savannah Ops
Note to Amateur Radio Operators: Marine VHF Channels 16, 12, and 14 can be good frequencies to program into your 2-Meter gear as propagation indicators. By hearing what pilot stations, Coast Guard stations, and Coast Guard sectors are calling on them, you can get a good idea of what VHF propagation is doing.
If you have any corrections or additions, please let me know in the comments section below or send me an email at kf4lmt @ gmail.