Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping Listen in -
Boat Watching with a VHF Scanner

Even inexpensive scanners are capable of receiving VHF radio communications. The majority of radio traffic carried out on the Great Lakes is in the high VHF band with frequencies ranging from 156-157 MHz. Below is the complete listing followed by regional listings.

Read about my scanning set up


Maritime Frequencies

Channel Number - Frequency
01 - 156.050 Commercial 05 - 156.250 Commercial
06 - 156.300 Intership safety 07 - 157.350 Commercial
08 - 156.400 Intership safety 09 - 156.450 Commercial
10 - 156.500 Commercial 11 - 156.550 Commercial
12 - 156.600 Port Operations 13 - 156.650 Port Operations
14 - 156.700 Commercial 14 - 157.700 Commercial
15 - 156.750 Environmental 16 - 156.800 Calling/distress
17 - 156.850 Admin/Enforcement 18 - 156.900 Commercial
19 - 156.950 Commercial 20A - 161.600 Port Operations
20 - 157.000 Port Operations 21 - 157.050 Coast Guard
22 - 157.100 Coast Guard 23 - 157.150 Coast Guard
24 - 161.800 Radio telephone 25 - 161.850 Radio telephone
26 - 161.900 Radio telephone 27 - 161.950 Radio telephone
28 - 162.000 Radio telephone 63 - 156.175 Commercial
65 - 156.275 Port Operations 66 - 156.325 Port Operations
67 - 156.375 Commercial 68  -156.425 non-Commercial
69 - 156.475 non-Commercial 70 - 156.525 non-Commercial
71 - 156.575 non-Commercial 72 - 156.625 non-Commercial
73 - 156.675 Port Operations 74 - 156.725 Port Operations
77 - 156.875 Commercial 78 - 156.925 non-Commercial
79 - 156.975 Commercial 80 - 157.025 Commercial
81 - 157.075 Coast Guard 82 - 157.125 Coast Guard
83 - 157.175 Coast Guard 84 - 161.825 Radio telephone
85 - 161.875 Radio telephone 86 - 161.925 Radio telephone
87 - 161.975 Radio telephone 88 - 157.425 Commercial
83B - 161.775 Coast Guard 21B -161.650 Coast Guard
* Not all channels used in all areas.

Low power on board communications

457.525 457.550 457.575 457.600 467.750 467.775 467.800 467.825

Automated Maritime Telecommunications System
  (AMTS) voice, fax, and teletype

216.0125 through 219.9875 (12.5 kHz steps) channels 101-180


Maritime Frequencies from the consolidated list

Coast Guard Auxiliary/ Coast Guard
143.280, 143.875,  148.305,  148.825,  165.3375,   165.3125,  164.300, 165.2625
Tactical 162.125,  162.325,  163.125
Cutter 232.100
Search & rescue 237.900
Air/sea rescue 287.800
Coast Guard 381.800 (helicopter)
Coast Guard secondary 383.900
Coast Guard reserve 30.36,  30.38 
Other Coast Guard:
30.33, 30.41,  32.19,  34.01,  40.40,  41.21,   41.23,  41.70,  41.71,  41.75,  41.83,  41.85,   162.125 (tac), 162.325 (tac), 162.225 (tns),  162.5625,  163.125,   164.550,  164.9875,  165.2125, 172.300,  172.400,  407.625,   407.925,  407.975,  409.825, 410.125,  419.650

Vessel Traffic Services
Vessel Traffic Services are in place at several sites around the Great Lakes. These stations are set up to provide mariners with traffic information to add to the safety of vessels when transiting cramped, high traffic water ways. The service requires vessels to call in at certain points and then relays that information to other vessels. This is Great if you own a scanner and live in the area.


Detroit & St. Clair River Area Maritime Frequencies

Coast Guard
157.175 - St. Clair
157.050 - Port Huron/ Belle Isle
157.125 - Sarnia Ont.
157.150 - Detroit group
157.100 - Working channel from 16, Marine Safety Broadcast
156.700 - Macomb Co. Sheriff Marine Patrol
156.800 - Calling and distress (monitored by all)
381.800 - Helicopter (out of Selfridge ANG Base; can also be heard on other C.G. VHF channels during operations)
161.875/157.275 (duplex) weather reports from other stations/ships 161.900, 162.000 Detroit.
161.875/157.275 (duplex) Sarnia-- marine operator
161.775 - Continuous marine broadcast, Leamington and Kincardine Ont.
161.650 - Continuous marine broadcast, Sarnia and Port Burwell Ont.

VTS Sarnia
All ships over 20 meters, transiting the system between Detroit River Light in lake Erie and and Huron Cut Lights 11+12 in Lake Huron, must report in on these three channels:
156.550 - Sarnia traffic (ch.11) from Huron Cut to St.Clair Crib Light.
156.600 - Sarnia traffic (ch.12) from Detroit River Light to St. Clair Crib.
156.650 - Sarnia traffic (ch.13) back up for ch. 11 + 12

  Chart of the area

Commercial
156.500 - J.W. Westcott Co. (Mail Boat); Port Huron Pilot office; Rouge River bridges.
156.500, 156.900 - tug companies.
156.700 - Sterling fuel dock.
156.950 - towing/salvage.
156.400, 156.300, 156.275 - ship to ship
156.450 -Yacht clubs


Soo Area Maritime Frequencies
156.600 - Soo Control St. Mary's River Traffic Service From De Tour Reef Light to Ile Parisienne light.
156.700 - Soo Lockmaster
156.400 - Soo Warehouse Supply boat


Duluth Area Maritime Frequencies
156.300 - Ship to ship
157.350 - Ship working
156.400 - Ship to ship
156.500 - Docks and bridges
156.550 - USS walkie talkies
156.600 - Agents/ship
156.650 - Pilots and USS ship/shore
156.800 - Calling
156.900 - G tugs and ship working channel
156.950 - Interlake ship working
157.050, 157.100, 157.150 - USCG


St. Lawrence Seaway and Welland Canal

156.700 - Seaway Beauharnois Sector 1
156.600 - Seaway Eisenhower Sector 2
156.550 - Seaway Iroquois Sector 3
156.650 - Seaway Clayton Sector 4 (St. Lawrence River portion)
156.650 - Seaway Sodus Sector 4 (Lake Ontario portion)
156.550 - Seaway Newcastle Sector 5
156.700 - Seaway Welland Sector 6
156.550 - Seaway Long Point Sector 7
Welland Canal
156.850 Upbound ship to lock
156.325 Downbound ship to lock

Cleveland
156.500 Great Lakes Towing (reports all traffic in the river)
156.650 Bridges
156.800 Security Calls


HF on the lakes
HF used by various shore stations around the lakes. With VHF and cellular phones these frequencies end up used most often to provide weather reports and notice to mariners broadcasts. Every great once-in-a-while you will hear a ship to shore phone call on them. All listed are upper side band unless otherwise noted.
Freq/ Station
2514.0 VCC Quebec CG Radio
2550.0 WLC Rogers City MI
2598.0 Canadian Coast Guard
2582.0 WLC and various Canadian CG
4369.0 WLC wx and some phone
4381.0 WLC
4408.0 WLC
4143.5 Upper Lakes Shipping (Canada)
6218.5 Upper Lakes Shipping (Canada)
5692.0 US Coast Guard - Traverse City and Detriot Air Stations


Common Radio Frequencies used by Great Lakes Vessels

Algoma 156.875 Channel 77
Algoma 156.925 Channel 78
Algoma 157.425 Channel 88
American Steamship 156.900 Channel 18
Andrie Towing 156.950 Channel 19
Andrie Towing 156.475 Channel 69
Carferry Badger 156.475 Channel 69
Bethlehem Steel 156.325 Channel 66
Oglebay Norton 156.950 Channel 19 (Columbia Star, Middletown)
Oglebay Norton 156.275 Channel 65 (Varies according to boat.)
Oglebay Norton 156.325 Channel 66 (Joe Frantz)
Oglebay Norton 156.875 Channel 77 (Reserve)
Oglebay Norton 156.925 Channel 78 (Middletown)
Oglebay Norton 156.975 Channel 79 (Armco)
Oglebay Norton & Desgagnes 156.375 Channel 67 (Varies according to boat.)
Great Lakes Towing 156.300 Channel 06
Great Lakes Towing 156.500 Channel 10
Great Lakes Towing 156.900 Channel 18
Hanna Towing 156.725 Channel 74
Central Marine Logistics 156.275 Channel 65
Central Marine Logistics 156.325 Channel 66
Central Marine Logistics 156.375 Channel 67
Interlake 156.350 Channel 07
Interlake 156.950 Channel 19 (Varies according to boat.)
Interlake  156.275 Channel 65
Interlake 156.375 Channel 67
Interlake 156.575 Channel 71 (Paul Tregurtha)
Interlake 156.925 Channel 78 (Lee A. Tregurtha)
Interlake  156.975 Channel 79 (Charles M. Beegley)
Lafarge Cement 156.875 Channel 77
Cemex Cement 156.250 Channel 05 (Challenger)
Cemex Cement 156.725 Channel 74 (Conquest)
Paterson 156.375 Channel 67
Mapleglen - Oakglen 156.325 Channel 66
Mapleglen - Oakglen 156.525 Channel 70
Mapleglen - Oakglen 156.575 Channel 71
Mapleglen - Oakglen 156.875 Channel 77
Presque Isle 154.600
St. Marys Cement 156.375 Channel 67
Selvick Towing 156.500 Channel 10
Selvick Towing 156.875 Channel 77
Selvick Towing 156.725 Channel 74
Upper Lakes Group 156.275 Channel 65
Upper Lakes Group 156.325 Channel 66
U.S.X. Great Lakes Fleet  467.775 USX "Ch. 1"
U.S.X. Great Lakes Fleet 467.800 USX "Ch. 2"
U.S.X. Great Lakes Fleet 467.400 USX "Ch. 3"
Upper Lakes Towing 156.675 Channel 73 (Joe Thompson)
BN Ore Dock, Superior, WI *160.515 (RR frequency)
Taconite Harbor Ore Dock *451.975 (RR frequency)

*Docks use ships walkie-talkie frequency when actual loading is taking place.

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