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Navigating the inland waterways of Europe is prohibited

Navigating the inland waterways of Europe is prohibited

What Is ATIS?

ATIS (Automatic Transmitter Identification System) is a system used in marine VHF radios. It is mandatory for the identification of vessels navigating certain inland waterways of mainland Europe. 

The ATIS signaling protocol is based on the protocol used for Digital Selective Calling (DSC), with the ATIS transmissions having the format specifier field set to 121. While the DSC transmission is exclusively on Channel 70, the ATIS digital signal is transmitted on the same VHF channel as the voice transmission.

The vessel identity is sent digitally immediately after each voice transmission, as soon as the ship's radio operator finishes speaking and releases a “push-to-talk” button on the transceiver. This distinguishes ATIS from the AIS (Automatic Identification System) used across the globe on ships that continuously transmit data.

A short post-transmission message sent by the radio contains a ten-digit code that is either an encoded version of the ship's alphanumeric call sign, or the ship MMSI number prefixed by a “9” (for vessels from outside the region). This way, vessels are identified by marine coastal and inland stations who monitor the system.


The requirement for the use of ATIS-capable VHF in several countries of Europe is established by the Regional Arrangement concerning the Radiotelephone Service on Inland Waterways (RAINWAT) agreements, concluded in Basel, which originally came into force in 2000. In 2012, the Regional Arrangement was replaced by a new one signed in Bucharest (revised in 2016). 

The document sets out the common principles and rules for using radio communications for a safe carriage of people and goods on the Inland Waterways of the RAINWAT countries. This concerns the use of frequencies, operating procedures, and the need to maintain a ships identification database. RAINWAT also prohibits the use of DSC where ATIS is required. 

The signatory countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, the Slovak Republic and Switzerland.

The Regional Agreement also applies to vessels navigating on inland waterways and arriving from non-RAINWAT countries. The use of ATIS is also mandatory for them. Every vessel sailing in this region must have a copy of the Regional Arrangement on board. It can be downloaded from the RAINWAT website. 

As for the territories outside the European inland waterways, the use of ATIS is prohibited there.


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