Australian Coastal Radio Service, 1912-2012

Handbook - Radiotelephone Ship Station Operators, Melbourne Coastal Radio Station, 1992

Image: Handbook - Radiotelephone Ship Station Operators, Melbourne Coastal Radio Station, 1992

Source: Museum Victoria

The first Australian Coastal Radio Station opened in Melbourne's Domain on 8th February 1912. It was part of the Commonwealth Government decision to build a network of stations around Australia. By 1914 there were 19 Coastal Radio Stations in the network at: Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Thursday Island, Port Moresby, Mount Gambier, Geraldton, Rockhampton, Cooktown, Esperance, Townsville, Broome, Darwin, Flinders Island, Roebourne and Wyndham.

In 1914, regulations governing safety at sea were established at the International Conference on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) in London. The conference had taken to heart the lessons learnt from the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912.

The principal means of communication of the Coastal Radio Stations was morse telegraphy. By the late 1920s, electronic valve equipment had replaced the original spark gap transmitters and crystal detectors.

In 1947, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) took over responsibility for the coastal network. Use of maritime communication rapidly increased until the 1990s, for example six new stations were built in the 1960s. Decline in use set in when satellite technologies were introduced in the early 1990s and many stations were closed or downgraded.

In 1992, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) was merged with Telecom to form Telstra.

On 31st January 1999 the morse telegraphy service was closed down after 87 years.

In 2000, a contract was awarded to a New Zealand company to build two new digitally based stations in Western Australia and Queensland, remotely controlled from Canberra. These stations provide weather and navigation warnings to shipping over 300 gross tonnes using radio and satellite. Ships less than 300 gross tonnes are served by radio networks controlled by State Governments.

All the Telstra Coastal Radio Stations were closed down on 30 June 2002.

References
Hewitson, Peter 2007, 'A brief history of the Australian Coastal Radio Service' Australian MCS http://coastradio.info/history.html, accessed Mar 2012

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