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                                                     ACTIVITIES IN AND AROUND THE RADIOROOM


In the Sixties ships up to 1600 GRT were not obliged to have radiotelegraphy on board; radiotelephony was enough. On ships of 1600 GRT and above radiotelegraphy however was compulsory and therefore required radiotelegraphy equipment and a wireless operator on board. Depending on the size and type of ship radiostations were devided in four categories. A ship of category H24 is ”open “ 24 hours per day  , H16 means 16 hours open and H8 of course 8 hours. Furthermore there are HX-ships, that are allowed to be open less than 8 hours. With “open” is meant that the radiostation is open for public service, such as transmitting of telegrams, making telephone calls etc. Obviously on a H16 ship a listening watch is kept on the international emergency frequencies of 500 KHz (telegraphy) and 2182 KHz (telephony) by more than one wireless operator. H24-ships (such as 
passengerships) have at least 3, but in general 5 wireless operators (Radio Officers) on board. 
      (Note. H8 ships kept radio watch at sea in Greenwich Mean Time; 2 hours on/2hours off, and, depending on the ship’s longitude, also as per
       H8 Time Zone. By time zoning the world the H8 wireless operator would never work earlier than 8 am or  later than midnight local time.) 
The so-called emergency frequencies are not only used in cases of emergency, but also as calling frequencies to make calls to a ship or coaststation. After contact has been made both stations switch to their working frequency. Many coaststations can directly be called on a certain, prearranged
working frequency; they answer on their first working working frequency. For instance Scheveningen Radio has to be called on 454 KHz, while it transmits on 461 KHz (the first working frequency). While operating on these working frequencies on short or middle waves one has to listen
simultaneously on one of the two emergency frequencies.
Because a radiostation normaly has only two receivers and one of these is used for radio traffic, the other receiver is left to listen on one of the emergency frequencies. Besides the working frequency one constantly listens on the 500 KHz. During heavy traffic on the 500 KHz the wireless operator has to recognize his own callsign or in case of an emergency another ship's distress signal. To improve the reception of distress signals (think of weak distress signals of lifeboats or a mid-ocean distress case) two periods per hour have been set aside in which it is worldwide forbidden to transmit on the emergency frequencies. On the 500 KHz the silence periods  are between the 15th and 18th and between the 45th and 48th minute of each hour on the GMT station clock. On the 2182 KHz the periods are respectively between the full hour and the 3rd minute and between the 30th and 33rd minute.  
                              ... haha, no madam, RH does not mean  “Radio-Helpdesk" ...
The radio-officer on an H8-ship each day at sea listens on the 500 KHz for eight hours, 2 hours on/2hours off. During the remaining 16 hours his job is done by the Automatic Alarm Receiver (A.A.T). This device has been designed in a way, that it reacts on a signal it receives on 500 KHz consisting of 8 dashes with a length of 4 seconds seperated by a space of one second. This signal is called the alarmsignal and is sent by a ship in distress before sending the distress message. One minute after sending the alarmsignal transmission of the distress message on 500 KHz should
commence. This minute is necessary for the radio-officers  whose A.A.T. went off to have the opportunity to rush to the radiostation and receive
the distress message. 
More R/O’s will have to leave their beds during the night than than in daytime, because the range of a ship's transmitter is bigger during the night hours due to atmosferic circumstances. In daytime a 150 Watt ship’s medium wave transmitter will have a range of about 300 km, while this can
rise to about 2500 km during the night. Coaststations have transmitters of 10.000 Watt or more and cover in medium wave over 1000 km in
daytime. In shortwave with relative small  power – but a good adapted aerial – the easily cover over 20.000 km. More is not necessary to reach any
place on earth.
A random watch consists of the following activities:

     a) An eight, sixteen or twentyfour hour listening watch

     b) Receiving the traffic lists of Scheveningen Radio/PCH

     c) Receiving traffic lists of stations in the country of destination, countries where passengers originate from and/or countries where the

         headoffice has its seat i.c.w. possible orders (think of tankers)

     d) Receiving weather bulletins from different coaststations

     e) Receiving the newspaper report of Radio-Holland/ANP via PCH

     f) Receiving the English newspaper report via Portishead Radio, if there are foreign passengers on board

     g) Working out the received newspaper report on orm RH56a

     h) Daily sending the ship’s position to PCH for the Ministry of Defence and the newspapers
     i)  Daily receiving timesignals to check the chronometer(s) Chronometers are used for zenith 
measurement of heavenly bodies by means of

         a sextant

     j)  Daily taking of check radiobearings (if near land or available)

     k) Sending and/or receiving of telegrams of captain, crew or passengers

     l)  Ditto as for telephone calls (if equipped with telephony)

     m) Keeping up to date the radio logbook, in which is reported everything happened during the radiowatch

     n)  Keeping up to date the administration

     o) Testing of and switching on the Automatic Alarm receiver


                                                                 Requirements for radio installations
Radio installations have to meet the needs of certain demands, internationaly recorded in the International Treaty for Safety of Human Life at Sea
and nationaly in the Dutch Ship’s Law and the matching  Ship’s Decree. Moreover applicable are: the regulations of the Netherlands Telegraph and
Telephone Law of 1904, as well as of the Radio Regulations, together with the International Telecommunication Treaty.


In accordance with article 3 of the Telegraph and Telephone Law of 1904 for the installation and use of a ship’s radio installation an Authorization
is required, granted by the Postmaster-General. This applies for obliged (in accordance with the Ship’s Decree) and non-obliged radio installations
(for instance on yachts). 


Only after an Authorization has been granted it is allowed to place a radio installation on board. In accordance with the conditions of the
authorization the station however shall not be used before being approved. The installation shall meet a couple of technical requirements, laid
down in the Ship’s Decree, the Radio Regulations and PTT-specifications for radio installations. The approval for use is just granted if, after an
inspection on board, it is clear that the installation and operation meets all specified requirements.
In proof of this a Certificate of Approval is issued by the Inspector Coastal and Shipsradio. The Certificate of Approval and an extract of the
Authorization shall hang clearly visible near the radio installation.
Next to the Authorization and the Certificate of Approval ships over 1600 GRT shall be equipped with a valid Radio safety certificate. This
document is issued, on behalf of the Inspector-General of Shipping, by the Maritime Inspection Authority and is valid for 12 months with the
opportunity of extension by the appropriate authorities. 
Without such valid certificate the ship is not allowed to sail. Mentioned document will only be issued after the 
conclusion of an official of the
department of Coastal and Shipsradio, that the installation meets all requirements concerning  placing and arrangement of ship’s radiostations as
described in the Dutch Ship’s Law and Ship’s Decree. 

The personnel in charge of operating the installation has the obligation to keep secret (and store safely) all messages that are transmitted or
received by means of the installation and not being allocated for publication. Measures shall be affected to prevent that persons not being involved
in the radio service,  can note the exchange of messages. In case messages are received not intended for the own ship, it is not allowed to record
them. Such messages shall not be notified to others or used  for any purpose.
Since the captain is responsible for everything concerning the services on board the ship under his command and thus also for the operation of the
radio installation, he may be informed of transmitted and received messages. Naturally the secrecy does not count with regard to messages, that
are transmitted “to all” for a propagation as big as possible, such as weather bulletins, storm warnings and notices to mariners.

A candidate who passed his exam for the certificate of proficiency in radiotelegraphy will be required to take the oath or the promise of secrecy. 


A radio-officer is the only crew member who works 2 hours/2 hours off over a 14 hour period. Mates and engineers work  four hours and are eight hours off, as shown hereafter:

     0000 – 0400            Middle watch                           1600 – 1800     First dog watch

     0400 – 0800            Morning watch                         1800 – 2000     Second dog watch

     0800 – 1200            Forenoon watch                       2000 – 0000     First watch

     1200 – 1600            Afternoon watch  

To remember the watches there is a typical seaman’s memory aid:   Maidens May Fuck At First Sight Fanatically  

The fourth mate joins the first mate and apprentices join the second mate. Apprentice-engineers work with the second and third engineer. Every now and then an electrician (shorted to elec) roams among the engineers, but he again has a dayshift (0800-1200 and 1300-1700). 
Is there no elec on board, then the electrical work is mostly done by a third engineer with principal part getting/keeping the winches on deck going,
which are used to serve the cargo booms. The big boss of the engineers and elec is the chief engineer, who has no watch duty. The big boss of the
mates is the captain, who of course has the overall leading of and responsibility over the ship. The sailor’s boss is the boatswain (bosun), who’s
boss again is the first mate (after the integration the chief engineer, more about this later). The engineroom personnel, such as oilers, wipers etc.,
come under the second engineer. On tankers comes a foreman between them and the second engineer.


The  serving part on board is done by the steward department under the leadership of the chief-steward (after the integration the first mate, more
about this later). This chief-
steward wields the sceptre over kitchen personnel, the stewards and eventually a laundryman. The stewards maintain
the cabins of the passengers and officers. One privileged steward is the captain’s steward, who sometimes also cleans the radio-officer’s cabin,
because those two quite often live on the same deck. On (bigger) passenger ships the chief-steward’s  superior is the purser, a sort of
administrator, responsible for the financial procedure and well-being of the passengers.
Ordering a beer was done by pressing a button in the cabin, upon which in a jiffy a steward appeared with a beer and a kind of receipt book. The
receipt was signed by the one who ordered the beer and the amount of money was charged to the bar account at the end of the voyage. Four beers
and one gin was ordered by means of four short and one long press on the button. Down in the pantry the cabin’s number lighted and by counting the
signals the right order was delivered in the right cabin.
This room service was soon doomed to die because of the recucing of personnel and reorganisation of job activities. One had to get his drinks in
the pantry himself (except when there was a bar on board, then of course everybody was sitting on a bar stool). By absence of a bar or when the bar
was closed, one had cases of beer or soft drinks in his cabin, eventually a part of it in the refrigerator of a nearby pantry.


For each weekend at sea a crew member “earned” 1-½  day off. Was the ship moored on a Saturday morning at 11.55 a.m., the half day off in lieu
of the Saturday was not given. Did the ship unmoor at Sunday night at 11.55 p.m. the whole day off was earned however. Later this regulation
would improve considerably in such a way that each weekend spent on board – regardless whether at sea or in port – entitled one to two days off.
Not only this regulation of leave but also the earnings of the seamen in the mid-sixties were adjusted to standards  applied ashore. This was done
by the so called “Toxopeus-round”, named after the then minister of Economic Affairs. The wages were raised with 10 to 15 percent and also other
– secondary -  terms of employment became more “humane”.  

As soon as possible after departure and furthermore every month a lifeboat drill is carried out. Lists with the names of the persons on board and
their assigned lifeboat as well as their possible task in the boat were posted in some corridors. The duty of one person was to remove the wooden
cover from the boat and not  throw it overboard as other persons might jump into the water;  someone else places a wooden plug into the bottom of
the boat (normally not fitted because rainwater must escape), the winches of the davits must be prepared and operated and the radio-officer sees to it that the portable lifeboat transmitter is placed into the lifeboat.
Each lifeboat has a mate as commander; sailors are as fair as possible spread over the boats. Besides the lifeboat drill on tankers regular a firedrill
is held. The radio-officer is then supposed to stay in the radioroom to send if necessary a distress or emergency message. A distress message, as
known, is preceded by three times the sign …---…, wrongly called Save Our Souls or SOS. An emergency message, less imminent, is proceded by
three series of XXX. A safety message, such as stormwarnings sent by a coaststation or a danger to navigation sent by a ship or coaststation, is preceded by three series of TTT. 


The series callsigns PAAA-PBUZ is used by the Royal Navy and her services, such as the pilot service with amongst others the Marcab/PAHF, Betelgeuze/PAHH, Rigel/PAHM, Deneb/PAHO, Sirius/PAHS and Zeemeeuw/PAHY.

PBVA-PBZZ is for other public services, such as PTT (cable layer), RLD (the ocean station vessels Cirrus/PBVC and Cumulus/PBVD, later PBVQ), the Department of Agriculture and Fishery with the fishery-researchvessel Antonie van Leeuwenhoek VO I/PBVF.

     Callsigns were allocated to groups of ships as well, such as:

     PCAA – collective callsign for all Dutch ships

     PCAB – collective callsign for all ships of the Royal Dutch Navy

     PCAC – collective callsign for all Dutch merchant ships

     PCOR – collective callsign for all  Shelltanker ships

     PDRH – collective callsign for all  ship’s radiostations utilized by Radio-Holland

     PDSM – collective callsign for all K.N.S.M. ships (Royal Dutch Steamship Company)

     PDSN – collective callsign for all S.M.N. ships (Steamship Company Nederland)

     PHAL – collective callsign for all H.A.L. ships (Holland America Line)

     PISL   – collective callsign for all ships of L. Smit & Co. International Towingservice



Further activities by the R/O outside the radiostation are:

a)                Taking bearings with the directionfinder, mostly situated in the chartroom.

b)                 Maintenance and sometimes repairs of the directionfinder and its aerial, VHF transmitter /receiver, echosounder, telephony-
            installation on the bridge, radar (if not done by the second  mate), Central Antenna System with often the bygoing sound
            equipment, the fascimilé (Fax) for the receiving of weather charts.
c)                  Maintenance or even replacement of the main aerial and its insulators, mostly stretched between the masts and of the
            emergency aerial, mostly stretched from a smaller mast to the input above the radioroom.
d)                 Maintenance of the accumulators as a part of the emergency equipment. These batteries are mostly found in a so-called “accu
            cabinet” next to the radiostation  and sometimes in a box on the deck above the radiostation and bridge.

e)                  Weekly measurement of the acid level and clamp voltage of the batteries and fill in the battery report (RH38).

f)                  Testing of the portable lifeboat transmitter.

g)                  Maintenance and eventually repair of electromotors and generators, belonging to the different devices.

h)                  Possible repairs to radio receivers or taperecorders of  people on board.

                    We all have knowledge of portable TV’s, haven't we ?      


                                                                           SUMMARY TELEGRAMSERVICE
     The calculation of telegram charges on board of Radio-Holland ships is done in two ways, namely:

     A              traffic with Scheveningen Radio (PCH), in which all taxes are calculated in Dutch guilders

     B              traffic with foreign radiostations, in which all taxes are calculated in goldfrancs.

     Traffic between two R-H ships is considered as foreign traffic as well, unless the traffic goes via PCH.


On board of Radio-Holland ships the following permitted telegrams can be found:

P            A fully charged telegram. All taxes are full, except Coastal rate telegrams in South-Africa, on which a reduction of  50%  is

              granted on the ship tax and coastal tax, the land tax is 10 centimes.

PDH       A telegram presented by a crewmember. Just a rebate on the ship tax, namely in traffic with PCH 5 ct.  per word  with  a

             minimum of 10 words and in foreign traffic 5 centimes per word with a minimum of 10  words.

PDHK     A telegram presented by the captain. No ship tax, full coastal and land tax.

PDHVR   A telegram presented by a free ship tax-card holder. No ship tax, coastal and land tax full. (These “free ship tax  cards” are

             numbered and dated. On the telegram form shall be noted down 1. the number  2. the company of issue  3. date of issue. The

             validity of the card is one year after the date of issue.

MSG       A telegram presented by the captain. No ship tax;  full coastal and land tax.

SLT        A Ship Letter Telegram, presented by passengers. Full ship and coastal taxes..

SLTV      A Radio Letter Telegram presented by a crewmember. Lowered ship tax, full coastal tax.

SLTVK    A Radio Letter Telegram presented by the captain. No ship tax, full coastal tax.

SLTVR    A Radio Letter Telegram presented by a free ship tax-card holder. No ship tax, coastal tax full.

SLTMSG  A Radio Letter Telegram presented by the captain concerning ship’s matters. No ship tax, coastal tax full.

The following telegrams are allowed in traffic with Scheveningen Radio only:

GTG        A greetings telegram with a standard text allowed from ship to shore and shore to ship. The only standard texts permitted are

               those as laid down in the PTT Medgraafs.

CTV         A surprise telegram with exclusively a standard text from RH76 (Catalogue Surprise Service). No Medgraaf texts allowed. Is a

               free text added to the standard text, then the surprise telegram shall be sent as a P or SLT. To be used by passengers and


GST         A surprise telegram that can be sent as P, SLT or CTV. The amount of  the surprise is added to the telegram charges. A GST can

               be sent as P via any coaststation; sent as a SLT or CTV via Scheveningen Radio only.

POSTV     These are radioletters exclusively allowed for crewmembers and are posted in the Netherlands via another R-H ship. The charges

               for those telegrams are ƒ 2,50 per 40 words. They can also be used for radiosurprises.

NRT       These telegrams can be sent to the U.S.A. only via American coaststations. They are delivered with delay.


SLT’s, GTG’s and such are forwarded to the addressee by mail. Employees of Scheveningen Radio brought those messages at 3 a.m. from

the coaststation on the Sluiseiland to the postoffice on the Marktplein in IJmuiden.

                                                              10 years                                                    2289 days


                                           13 ships                                                     1?.445 beers






                                                                                                   Merchant Navy