Heavy fines of up to $40,000 could be levied against ships transiting U.S. waters if they are found to be running improperly installed and maintained AIS systems.
One of the problems AIS users encounter is the mistaken identification of vessels that are oftentimes identified as a WIG “Wing-in-Ground effect vessel” - a type of high-speed aerodynamic boat. This is often the result of ships transmitting incorrect data because of a poor initial AIS set-up.
But a 2012 U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center (NAVCEN) guidance document titled “Automatic Identification System New AIS Encoding Guidance for U.S. waters” provides excellent clarification to help ship operators understand what should be broadcast and in what format when transiting in these areas.
Using AIS systems properly is critical to the safe navigation of ships. In the U.S., the USCG has indicated that they continue to see numerous AIS users who don’t broadcast their current navigational status or voyage details accurately nor do they do the same while they’re anchored or moored.
To avoid penalties, the guidance document includes an USCG Automated Identification System Encoding Guide to help AIS users carry out a number of important checks and balances:
Properly installed and maintained AIS systems should provide Static Data, like Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) information, call sign and vessel name which should match the vessel’s radio license, without using abbreviations. The 7-digit IMO number is also required. This information needs to be inputted manually at AIS device installation time and password protected.
Dynamic Data should include positioning source, for instance, GPS or manual input. This information should provide: “course over ground in 1/10 degrees, speed over ground in 1/10 knots, vessel position in 1/10 seconds of latitude & longitude, and degree of accuracy (whether greater or less than 10 meters).”
Heading data needs to be included on AIS vessels of “150 gross tonnage or greater; and, Rate of Turn data on vessels of 50,000 gross tonnage or greater (per SOLAS Regulation V/19.2). A Pilot Plug, on vessels required to embark pilots, should be connected and properly wired to the AIS. It should be permanently located near a 3-prong, 120-volt, AC receptacle.”
Voyage data should also be inputted manually to indicate the latest current conditions. This includes navigational status, static draft, type of vessel, dimensions, estimated time of arrival and destination. Specifics are included in the guidance document.
Additionally, the document includes an alert regarding voluntary AIS Class B users, who are cautioned to remember that there are some older Class A AIS model users who may not be able to receive/display critical dynamic and static information from Class B devices, so as to not to take for granted that these Class B users can be seen by all.
Returning to the AIS WIG issue, the new guidance provides a detailed list of how to properly identify vessels as follows:
“Note, AIS Ship Types 20-29, normally used to represent Wing in Ground vessels should be used instead to represent the following vessels when operating in U.S. waters (including the U.S. EEZ):
20-Wing in Ground (WIG) vessels;
21-Vessels engaged in towing by pushing ahead or alongside, i.e. pushboat, and who’s AIS dimension values (ABCD) solely represent the length and breadth of the vessel;
22-Vessels engaged in towing by pushing ahead or alongside, i.e. pushboat, and, who’s AIS dimension values represent the maximum rectangular dimensions of the vessel and its tow;
23-Vessels designed to tow by pushing ahead or alongside, i.e. pushboat, but, not currently engaged in towing, i.e. lightboat;
24-Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs), Liftboats, Floating Production Systems (FPS), Floating Production Storage and Offloading Vessels (FPSO);
25-Offshore Supply Vessels (OSV);
26-Processing vessels (i.e. fish);
27-School, scientific, research or training ships,
28-U.S. public or governmental vessels, and,
29-Autonomous or remotely-operated craft.”
More specific details and further information on proper adherence to these guidelines can be found in the “Automatic Identification System New AIS Encoding Guidance for U.S. waters” document.
PortVision currently processes approximately 50 million real-time AIS vessel positions and provides ship tracking for over 3,000 users across the industry. Our marine analysts are well-versed in the requirements and best practices associated with AIS use – both in the wheelhouse and shoreside. Learn more about AIS vessel tracking by downloading our FREE PortVision 360 info sheet below.