A brief history of the Australian Coastal Radio Service

Following the tragic sinking of the Titanic in 1912 the International Conference on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) was convened in London. Representatives of 16 nations signed an agreement which bound them to introduce a package of uniform regulatory practices to safeguard the lives of seafarers.

This became known as the SOLAS convention. Ships in certain categories were required to keep continuous radio watch and so would need to carry more than one operator. An automatic alarm system was introduced which would automatically activate alarm bells on reception of the alarm signal. This would alert those on board ship to the emergency even when the radio operator was off watch.

In Australia the Commonwealth Government commenced building the Coastal Radio Service in 1911 and the first station opened at Melbourne’s Domain on 8th February 1912. A second station in Hobart opened a few weeks later. Four more stations followed in the same year at Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth.

The latter two stations were equipped with Telefunken 25KW quenched spark transmitters. By 1914 at the start of WWI a network of 19 coast stations was in operation.

These were the stations in the original chain and the dates upon which they came into service.


Opening Date

Melbourne (VIM)


Hobart (VIH)


Sydney (VIS)


Brisbane (VIB)


Perth (VIP)


Adelaide (VIA)


Thursday Island (VII)


Port Moresby (VIG)


Mount Gambier (VIY)


Geraldton (VIN)


Rockhampton (VIR)


Cooktown (VIC) *


Esperance (VIE)


Townsville (VIT)


Broome (VIO)


Darwin (VID)


Flinders Island (VIL)


Roebourne (VIZ)


Wyndham (VIW)


*Cooktown closed 1948/1949 & C/s VIC allocated to Carnarvon late 1960's...

The primary mode of communication was morse telegraphy and primary frequency was 500khz. After the First World War and into the 1920s a major re-equipment programme was conducted. The original spark gap transmitters and crystal detectors were replaced by modern electronic valve equipment. Short-Wave (high frequency) was introduced as well as two-way radiotelephone which increased ranges considerably.

In 1947 The Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia)- OTC(A) was formed and took over responsibility for the network. This was the period of unprecedented growth in Maritime Communications. During the 1960s six new stations were built at Carnarvon, Broome, Townsville, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.

A new station was built at La Perouse, Sydney in 1979. The Seventies and eighties were the halcyon years for the CRS with traffic figures soaring to new heights every month. Radio Telex and the VHF Seaphone service was introduced.

In 1992 OTC(A) was merged with Telecom and became Telstra. The nineties saw the introduction of satellite technologies and traffic started to decline on the radio circuits. Ships Radio Officers were abolished and communications were handled by inexperienced navigation officers. Broome, Thursday Island, Rockhampton, Hobart, Carnarvon and Esperance radios closed.

In 1996 Sydneyradio was downgraded to an unmanned remote station and the Radphone service and half of it's GMDSS service transferred to Brisbane. Darwin was remote controlled from Perth and Townsville and Sydney remote controlled from Brisbane.

On 31st January 1999 the Morse Telegraphy service closed after 87 years.

In 2000 the AMSA contract was awarded to a New Zealand company, TVNZ to build two new stations at Wiluna, WA and Charleville, QLD remotely controlled from Canberra.

These new stations provide HF Digital Selective Calling (DSC) facilities as well as weather and navigation warnings to shipping over 300 gross tonnes via radio and satellite.

On 28th February 2002 the HF Radphone and Radphone Direct Dial services closed.

All the Telstra coast stations closed on June 30th 2002. Coastal GMDSS services for ships under 300 gross tonnes are now provided by new radio networks under the control of State Government Authorities.

On Friday 1st December 2006 after more than 30 years in operation, the VHF Seaphone network closed.

Customer Service






Land Mobiles


Photo Gallery



Site Info