Captain Phillips, Part 2: The AIS connection

Posted by Dean Rosenberg

In my last blog post I talked about how navy pirates resized 600the new Tom Hanks movie has shed a positive light on the maritime industry, and may have a far-reaching effect into driving young people’s interest in our industry.  If you missed my musing the first time around, you can read it here.

In this blog post, I would like to turn the focus on a topic that is a little closer to PortVision’s core, and that is… What is the role of Automatic Identification System (AIS) in piracy prevention and in post-incident rescue and recovery? 

First, some background…

The IMO presented guidelines for AIS use in 2001, and subsequently amended those guidelines in 2003 to allow the Master to turn their AIS transponder off at their discretion.

“if the master believes that the continual operation of AIS might compromise the safety or security of his/her ship or where security incidents are imminent, the AIS may be switched off.”

However, with Piracy in the Gulf of Aden increasing throughout the last decade, there was significant industry discussion regarding the role and value of AIS in Gulf of Aden vessel tracking and rescue operations versus the increased risk of disclosing AIS-based vessel position and details to bad actors.  Best practices were finalized by a working group comprised of UKMTO, Intertanko, OCIMF, and other key players in 2010, with the following guidance for the Gulf of Aden presented in the “Best Management Practice 3” circular

“The Master has the discretion to switch off the AIS if he believes that its use increases the ship’s vulnerability.  To provide Naval forces with tracking information within the Gulf of Aden it is recommended that AIS transmission is left on, but is restricted to ship’s identity, position, course, speed, navigational status, and safety-related information…”

“…If the AIS is switched off, then it should be activated at the time of an attack”

Thus, while ultimately, the decision regarding AIS use is left up to the master, conventional wisdom has determined that in general, AIS has significant value to area Naval operations during Gulf of Aden transits, and for geo-locating of vessels in the event that rescue and recovery operations are necessary.

Of course, AIS is only a small part of a vessel’s security plan and anti-piracy measures.  Complete anti-piracy measures also include SSAS, onboard security measures, onboard defensive measures, and possibly even onboard security personnel.  ABS released a comprehensive list of best practices in 2011 in their quick reference guide titled “Best Management Practices Against Somali Based Piracy”.

At PortVision we recognize that while many of our customers derive business value from AIS, the main mission and raisson d’etre (reason for being) for AIS will always be safety of life at sea.  We are very proud of all of those mariners (both merchant and defense) who put themselves in harm’s way to facilitate global commerce that improves the lives of people around the world. 


PortVision 360 AIS Vessel Tracking

Posted on Oct 25, 2013 12:37:00 PM

Topics: Blog