What is AIS Ship Tracking?
Automatic Identification System, otherwise known as AIS, is a ship tracking system used by various maritime stakeholders around the world. It uses a VHF radio transmission to broadcast the ships location to other ships, VTS (Vessel Traffic Service) stations, terrestrial and satellite receivers. All vessels over 300 gross tons, or any passenger ship, is required by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) to have a working AIS unit operating at all times. What was originally meant to help improve safety efforts on the waterway has turned into an incredibly power tool for small and big businesses alike. To learn more about the history of AIS vessel tracking and how it works, read our blog post What is AIS Tracking and Why is it Important.
Why Use an AIS Ship Tracker?
More information is always better than less information when it comes to operating and managing a vessel or fleet of vessels. AIS tracking, along with Radar tracking, helps the vessel crew make the best decision. Whether on-board the vessel, or onshore at a VTS or other site, AIS data provides the exact time, location, speed, course, and heading of a vessel arrival or departure. This data can be used to increase the efficiency of real-time operations or be collected into a system for predictive analytics and route forecasting. AIS data has been helping maritime stakeholders optimize their business for over a decade.
6 Must Have Features in your AIS Ship Tracker
AIS messages contain many different data values that may be of use to the end user. Your vessel tracker should have the ability to filter out the data you do not want to see, or include the values you do. For example, a user may want to see only Tankers (Vessel Type), going to Houston (Destination), that are larger than 245m (Length). By removing the clutter, and focusing on only what you are interested in, you can get a clearer picture of what is coming and going.
Fleet Tracking and Management
One of the most popular features of any AIS ship tracker is fleet tracking. Similar to the filtering function above, fleet tracking and management allows you to see only what you wish to see. You can track your fleet, your competitors fleet, potential customers, or any vessels of interest. Make sure that your vessel tracker has the option to distinguish your different fleets by color and/or icon.
Custom User Zones
Also referred to as vessel zones, user defined zones are key to any AIS ship tracking product. By creating a “geo-fence” around your POIs, you can then monitor the vessel traffic in only those areas, including: entries/exits, arrivals/departures, pass-throughs, and other events. User zones can be square, circular, or a custom polygon. This feature is vital to the next two on this list.
For many marine service providers, the alerting capabilities of a vessel tracker is the most important. The user can configure an alert based off of vessel movements, fleet movements, user zones and POIs. An example would be to trigger an alert anytime a vessel in the Port of San Diego (POI) went over 10 knots (trigger). The user, or user group, will then be notified via email, text, or pop-up in the vessel tracker and can then take the required action.
Key to any good vessel tracking tool is the ability to collect, process, and store historical AIS data. This is perhaps the most powerful feature available in today’s data driven world. Many ship trackers will have AIS data going as far back as 2007 and can export out custom reports for the user. With billions upon billions of records, companies can use this data for project planning, demurrage validation, route forecasting, machine learning, predictive ETAs, and much more.
For users interested in vessel activity far offshore, or in remote areas of the world, Satellite AIS completes the picture. With more and more satellites going into orbit every year, the lag between AIS position reports has decreased substantially. Any quality ship tracking service should have the option to include Satellite AIS data.
How can PortVision 360 help?
Since 2007, PortVision has prided ourselves on being the premier AIS vessel tracking tool for maritime stakeholders around the world. Our newest version, PortVision 360, has updated and expanded upon our original product and we have a lot more exciting developments on the way! If you are interested in learning more about PortVision 360, you can click on the link below: