Coast Guard Emergencies/Radio Call Signs

When to use May-Day:

The Canadian Coast Guard provides 24-hour monitoring on VHF Channel 16. These channels are used for DISTRESS AND CALLING ONLY.

In a life-threatening distress situation, select VHF Channel 16 or MF 2182 kHz .
Repeat “MAYDAY” three times, then state:

  • the name of your vessel
  • your position
  • the nature of your distress
  • your radio call sign
  • the number of persons on board
  • the assistance you need
  • If equipped with DSC equipment, you should precede the “MAYDAY” call with a DSC distress alert
  • Activate your 406 MHz EPIRB

Listen for a response, and repeat the message until you receive an answer.

If there is no immediate danger to life or property, repeat “PAN PAN” three times instead of “Mayday.” Information on marine radio procedure is available from Transport Canada or the Canadian Coast Guard.


When to use Pan Pan:


Pan Pan is another distress call but is used when there is no immediate danger to life or property. 

Repeat “PAN PAN” three times instead of “Mayday.” 

Use this for emergency events such as running out of gas, engine trouble, taking on water slowly, or non-life-threatening medical emergencies. 

We strongly advise all vessel owners to invest in a VHF marine radio and antenna.  This will allow you to be able to contact and receive assistance from other vessels that are in closer proximity to you than the Coast Guard. 


If you do not have a functioning VHF radio:
Telephone Dispatch Canadian Coast Guard EMERGENCY 1-800-267-7270