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Yachting World

  • Digital Edition

Yachting World cover

Sailor’s essential guide to AIS: Everything you need to know

Pip Hare

  • November 21, 2019

Pip Hare argues that AIS is one of sailing’s biggest technological developments of the past decade, but what exactly is it and how can sailors use it to their advantage?

ais-for-sailors-essential-guide-credit-marinetrafficcom

Image from the Marine Traffic website shows AIS data concentrated in busy shipping lanes

If I were to pick one development that has revolutionised my own sailing over the past 10 years it would undoubtedly be AIS. Not only has it brought an enhanced level of situational awareness to yachtsmen, but it’s also making huge advances in search and rescue applications. As much as we rely on this system it is sometimes easy to forget its limitations.

A quick recap

AIS uses VHF radio to transmit data gathered from a vessel’s GPS and other navigational sources. Message types are predefined and the number and type of messages received and transmitted depends on the class of AIS fitted.

Class A systems are fitted on all vessels over 300 gross tonnes, all commercial passenger ferries regardless of size and fishing vessels over 15m. Most leisure sailors and smaller vessels choose a Class B system, which transmits a reduced amount of information and can also be receive only.

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Who can see you?

Because AIS is transmitted via VHF, its range is limited to ‘line of sight’. Transmissions can be relayed via base stations (and sometimes satellite for Class A), but topography can still be a barrier so if you are under cliffs or large obstructions it’s possible your AIS signal will be masked to vessels in relatively close proximity.

AIS is not compulsory for leisure vessels, or small fishing vessels, so never assume you have the complete picture – especially when coastal sailing. In busy areas, there’s the perennial question of whether some commercial vessels opt to filter out Class B AIS signals. Regardless of whether this is truth or myth; you should never assume you have been seen. If in any doubt take avoiding action early.

Finally, consider whether you always want to be seen. If passage making in waters where broadcasting your position may be a security risk chose a set with ‘silent mode’. In particular remember this feature when at anchor: if using a GPS alarm that’s part of an integrated system your AIS could be forgotten in the background, broadcasting your position to the world.

How we view information

I prefer viewing AIS data on a plotter when in coastal waters, allowing me to make complete navigational decisions. At sea, I’m happy with a course-up display; with no plotter to distract me I can keep my eyes out of the boat.

Don’t let your current system restrict how you view the data; systems can be adapted and linked to additional repeaters and laptops, while developments in NMEA Wi-Fi now allow AIS data to be viewed on mobile apps. If sailing short-handed or with inexperienced crew, audible alarms can also be retrofitted for peace of mind.

Limitations and useful tools

Proximity alarms.

Get into the practice of ‘trimming’ your proximity alarm to fit situations. When setting a range, consider your speed as well as the potential speed of a closing vessel, the experience level of your ‘on watch’ crew, visibility and environment. Get into the habit of checking your proximity alarm setting regularly, especially if you tend to silence it in busy waters when everyone is on deck.

Look beyond the icon

Remember that the icon you see on a screen is your plotter’s interpretation of a situation. Always interrogate the information behind an icon to understand how reliable it is.

Time of last transmission

Class A vessels transmit every 2-10 seconds depending on their speed. Class B vessels are set to a nominal rate of every 30 seconds, however it could be longer depending on speed and the amount of priority traffic in the area (Class B does not have priority transmission).

Some plotters will continue to show ‘echoes’ of vessels for a number of minutes after their last transmission, and these plots in particular can lead to a false confidence in your situation.

Course, trajectory and CPA

The closest point of approach (CPA) is calculated by your own AIS plotter interpolating each burst of information it receives. The CPA is likely to change with every new burst of information. Always back up with radar, if available, and a confirmed visual identification and relative bearing using a hand bearing compass.

In reduced visibility beware that if a Class B vessel is moving at less than 2 knots the nominal reporting rate drops to 3 minutes. This can make calculating a reliable CPA impossible. It’s also worth checking the rate of turn (ROT) data from Class A vessels: if available it can indicate if a vessel is starting to alter course before the plotter calculation.

MMSI identification

One of the most useful features of AIS, this gives a direct line of communication to another vessel and the ability to clarify you have been seen. Although COLREGS are not keen on the use of VHF for collision avoidance, I’ve found that placing a DSC call using the MMSI and opening a dialogue with the bridge of a ship really helps.

Receivers only

Not all AIS receive-only sets are equal. Some receivers are not able to receive Class B vessel name and call sign, while older sets may not be configured for MOB or SART devices.

Search and rescue AIS is now being integrated into personal MOB beacons and as an additional homing signal for EPIRBs . These applications allow any vessel equipped with AIS to join in search operations, greatly increasing the chances of rescue. When using AIS MOB devices ensure you have tested each one against your mothership’s plotter, so all crew are aware of what an MOB symbol looks like.

First published in the May 2018 edition of Yachting World.

VESSEL FINDER

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MARINE VESSEL TRAFFIC

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IRISH SEA SHIPS MARINE TRAFFIC LIVE MAP

Irish sea - ship marine traffic live tracking ais map density map. ships current position. sea distance calculator.

Select Map by Ship Type

motor yacht ais marine traffic

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motor yacht ais marine traffic

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motor yacht ais marine traffic

motor yacht ais marine traffic

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motor yacht ais marine traffic

Ship Traffic Density Map of IRISH SEA

Live Marine Traffic, Density Map and Current Position of ships in IRISH SEA

MarineTraffic - Ship Tracking 4+

World's #1 ship tracking app‪‬, marinetraffic applications ltd, designed for ipad.

  • #157 in Travel
  • 4.8 • 54.4K Ratings
  • Offers In-App Purchases

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Description.

MarineTraffic displays near real-time positions of ships and yachts worldwide. Using the largest network of land-based AIS receivers, the app covers most major ports and shipping routes. • View VESSELS ON THE LIVE MAP, search for ships, boats and seaports and see what's near you! • More than 300,000 VESSELS PER DAY report their positions via MarineTraffic AIS • View live wind and 48-hour WIND FORECASTS on the map • ANIMATED PLAYBACK of vessel's track • PORT ARRIVALS & DEPARTURES live for over 4,000 ports and marinas, current conditions in ports and estimated time of arrival for the boats & ships. • Manage your list of vessels ("MY FLEET"), shared with all your devices and MarineTraffic.com • Browse 4.5 MILLION PHOTOS of ships, harbours, lighthouses and more! • Upload photos to MarineTraffic directly from your device. • Identify and track vessels sailing beyond the range of land-based AIS receiving stations, using satellite tracking, with ACCESS PLUS 24 (in-app purchase) • Identify vessels around you at a glance with the AUGMENTED REALITY tool Just point your device's camera to the horizon and get all the information you need about vessels, ports and lighthouses in your area: name, flag, speed, distance from you and a lot more. • Use the ROUTE PLANNER tool to plan a route on the map, measure distances and calculate ETA • MarineTraffic now offers auto-renewable subscriptions for Starter Plan, Nautical Charts, Weather Maps and Advanced Density Maps: Starter Plan - Unlock unlimited features like extended vessel and port details, vessel track, Advanced Search, Vessels near me, Augmented Reality and more Subscription name: Starter Plan Annual Cost: $9.99 (USD) Renewed every year i.e. you will be charged annually Get access to the marine environment with Nautical Maps - Pilotage information such as sea bed, sea marks and landmarks - Port details such as berths, dry docks and terminal location - Position and characteristics of buoys, lights, lighthouses - Depths of water and heights of land Subscription name: Nautical Charts Monthly Cost: $6.99 (USD) Renewed every month i.e. you will be charged monthly Subscription name: Nautical Charts Annual Cost: $66.99 (USD) Renewed every year i.e. you will be charged annually Unlock real-time & forecast weather information with Weather Maps - Wind contours - Wind flow & gusts - Temperature - Wave metrics - Clouds and Precipitation - Ocean currents - More than 20 key metrics - 7-days sea meteogram Subscription name: Weather Maps Layers Monthly Cost: $8.99 (USD) Renewed every month i.e. you will be charged monthly Subscription name: Weather Maps Layers Annual Cost: $95.99 (USD) Renewed every year i.e. you will be charged annually Advanced Density Maps - Dig into global shipping traffic data, filtering by vessel type. Subscription name: Advanced Density Maps Monthly Cost: $1.99 (USD) Renewed every month i.e. you will be charged monthly Subscription name: Advanced Density Maps Annual Cost: $17.99 (USD) Renewed every year i.e. you will be charged annually For all the above subscriptions: • Payment will be charged to iTunes Account at confirmation of purchase • Subscription automatically renews unless auto-renew is turned off at least 24-hours before the end of the current period • Account will be charged for renewal within 24-hours prior to the end of the current period, and identify the cost of the renewal • Subscriptions may be managed by the user and auto-renewal may be turned off by going to the user's Account Settings after purchase • Any unused portion of a free trial period, if offered, will be forfeited when the user purchases a subscription to that publication, where applicable Terms of Use: https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/p/terms Privacy Policy: http://www.marinetraffic.com/en/p/privacy-policy Join the great MarineTraffic community!

Version 4.1.10

- Fixes issue with iOS 12 - Support for latest iPads - Various fixes and improvements

Ratings and Reviews

54.4K Ratings

Indespensible

I just sailed from Chesapeake Bay to NYC. I don't have AIS on my boat, and was concerned about boat traffic in the C&D canal, the Delware river, and Ambrose channel into the Hudson. I DO HAVE cellular service on my Ipad. We remained within 10 miles of the coastline at all times, and this app identified all the freighters, both near us, and I could also look ahead and behind us. I was then able to hail them and discuss course and direction with them. There were a few times we needed to adjust our course a tiny bit, and avoid issues well in advance. This app was a life saver for our voyage. Even when I upgrade to onboard AIS, I will still use this app to see the freighters that are outside of the VHF line of site range to predict CPA. Thanks Marine Traffic!!!!

Free unlocks expire when app closed

I was looking for an app to track my vehicle shipment. This app does a great job of that and more. There’s a catch for free accounts, however. You get three “past route” and three “vessel info” unlocks before having to register and pay. No problem, I thought. Just want to track one ship over a period of 3-5 days. So day one I unlock the past route and vessel info for my ship. Very cool info! Day two I go to check on the vessel and… I have to use another unlock for both the past route and vessel info. Now day two again, but I closed the app and it wants to use my final unlock for both the route and vessel info. It’s the same ship on the same route. If you’re going to subscribe, this won’t matter to you. If you’re like me and only have a single, one-off use of the app, go for it but don’t close the app! You’ll have to use your limited unlocks again and quickly run out. I hope the app dev will consider allowing each unlock to last for the current sailing of the selected ship instead of what seems to expire as soon as I close the app.

Developer Response ,

Thank you so much for your lovely review. It means a lot to us! Should you have any suggestions on what could be improved, please let us know in our Community Help:https://bit.ly/3qEQGUa Have a great day!

Was good, recent update made it useless.

This app used to be good for what I needed it for, which was seeing the names of ships near me (I work on ships and frequently need to do this for various reasons). Now, the app doesn’t show any vessel names unless you specifically search for a specific vessel, even when the “vessel names” option is checked. Furthermore, the app used to show you a picture of the vessel for free, which is very useful if you have to visit a specific ship and you don’t know what it looks like. Now when you tap on a ship, you don’t even get a picture. So this app is trying to force me to pay for things that it used to do for free, and it still is possible to do for free if I use google or other apps, so there is literally no reason to use this app anymore. On an unrelated note, the old logo was completely fine. The new logo looks nothing like a ship unless you know in advance that it’s trying to look like a ship viewed from the front. Simpler isn’t always better. It’s an app logo, not a company logo. It should quickly convey what the app is for so that it stands out on a page with 27 other app logos.
We are sorry to hear that you feel this way. We always appreciate customers who take the time to give us their feedback and will definitely pass this on to the relevant team for review. If you have any questions, please contact us at https://bit.ly/3dzeALs

App Privacy

The developer, MarineTraffic Applications LTD , indicated that the app’s privacy practices may include handling of data as described below. For more information, see the developer’s privacy policy .

Data Used to Track You

The following data may be used to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies:

Data Not Linked to You

The following data may be collected but it is not linked to your identity:

  • Identifiers
  • Diagnostics

Privacy practices may vary, for example, based on the features you use or your age. Learn More

Information

  • Access Plus 24 $0.99
  • Starter Plan Annual $9.99
  • Nautical Charts Monthly $2.99
  • Nautical Charts Monthly $6.99
  • Weather Maps Layers Monthly $8.99
  • Augmented Reality $2.99
  • Advanced Density Maps Monthly $1.99
  • Nautical Charts Annual $29.49
  • Weather Maps Layers Annual $95.99
  • Route Planner $0.99
  • Developer Website
  • App Support
  • Privacy Policy

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Live AIS Maps -  Sea & River Going Ships
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  1. MarineTraffic: Global Ship Tracking Intelligence

    MarineTraffic Live Ships Map. Discover information and vessel positions for vessels around the world. Search the MarineTraffic ships database of more than 550000 active and decommissioned vessels. Search for popular ships globally. Find locations of ports and ships using the near Real Time ships map. View vessel details and ship photos.

  2. Ship TRIUMPH (Yacht) Registered in Malta

    Vessel TRIUMPH is a Yacht, Registered in Malta. Discover the vessel's particulars, including capacity, machinery, photos and ownership. Get the details of the current Voyage of TRIUMPH including Position, Port Calls, Destination, ETA and Distance travelled - IMO 9799941, MMSI 229624000, Call sign 9HA5539

  3. Ship Finder

    Welcome to Ship Finder, a marine traffic web app designed to track live vessel activity from across the world's seas and oceans developed by Pinkfroot. Showing you up to the minute ship tracking data broadcast straight from vessels equipped with AIS transmitters to our receivers showing you information like: Ship name Vessel type MMSI number

  4. Ship & Container Tracking

    VesselFinder is a FREE AIS vessel tracking web site. VesselFinder displays real time ship positions and marine traffic detected by global AIS network. Map Vessels Photos Ports Containers News. Services. Paid. Plans & Prices RealTime AIS Data Historical AIS Data Container Tracking. Free. News.

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    Vessel ALFA is a Yacht, Registered in Cayman Is. Discover the vessel's particulars, including capacity, machinery, photos and ownership. Get the details of the current Voyage of ALFA including Position, Port Calls, Destination, ETA and Distance travelled - IMO 9799953, MMSI 319190400, Call sign ZGKN9

  6. My Ship Tracking Free Realtime AIS Vessel Tracking Vessels Finder Map

    My Ship Tracking is a FREE REALTIME AIS vessel finder tracking service. With this vessel tracker you can monitor ship positions, vessel tracking, ship tracking, vessel position, vessels traffic, port activity in realtime map.

  7. Sailor's essential guide to AIS: Everything you need to know

    A quick recap. AIS uses VHF radio to transmit data gathered from a vessel's GPS and other navigational sources. Message types are predefined and the number and type of messages received and ...

  8. A Current Position on MARINE TRAFFIC

    LIVE NAUTICAL CHART. SEA WEATHER MAP. Track current position of A on Live Map and find its IMO, MMSI, Call Sign, 1009340,232039748.

  9. Vessel Finder

    Do you want to track any ship in the world for free? VesselFinder is the web service you need. It provides real-time data on vessel locations and marine traffic using a global AIS network. You can also search for ships by IMPA code, military status, cruise line, ferry route, container number and more. VesselFinder is the ultimate tool for maritime enthusiasts and professionals.

  10. Marine Traffic AIS Map

    Tall Ships. Superyachts. Car Carries. Marine Traffic AIS Tracking World Map.

  11. IRISH SEA SHIPS MARINE TRAFFIC LIVE MAP

    IRISH SEA - Ship Marine Traffic Live Tracking AIS MAP Density Map. Ships Current Position. Sea Distance Calculator. Straits Canals Gulfs Bays Seas Oceans Rivers Lakes Sounds Fjords Reefs Lagoons Capes. Select Map by Ship Type.

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  13. ‎MarineTraffic

    ‎MarineTraffic displays near real-time positions of ships and yachts worldwide. Using the largest network of land-based AIS receivers, the app covers most major ports and shipping routes. • View VESSELS ON THE LIVE MAP, search for ships, boats and seaports and see what's near you! • More than 300,0…

  14. Ship Tracking of AIS Marine Traffic

    Tracking & Live AIS Maps Our live maps and databases offer tracking of: - 80,000 Sea & River Going Ships - 17,000 Ports & Marinas * - 1,400 Cruise Ports * - 1,370 Sea Airports * - 1,000 Shipyards * - 100 Regional Maps - 100 Top Superyachts - 79 Tall Ships Class A - 20 Largest Cruise Fleets.

  15. MarineTraffic

    MarineTraffic is a maritime analytics provider, which provides real-time information on the movements of ships and the current location of ships in harbors and ports. A database of information on the vessels includes for example details of the location where they were built plus dimensions of the vessels, gross tonnage and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number.

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  17. Ship AFTER YOU (Yacht) Registered in Cayman Is

    Vessel AFTER YOU is a Yacht, Registered in Cayman Is. Discover the vessel's particulars, including capacity, machinery, photos and ownership. Get the details of the current Voyage of AFTER YOU including Position, Port Calls, Destination, ETA and Distance travelled - IMO 9620009, MMSI 319015900, Call sign ZGAB7

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  19. Lobnya, Moscow Oblast, Russia Weather

    Interactive weather map allows you to pan and zoom to get unmatched weather details in your local neighborhood or half a world away from The Weather Channel and Weather.com

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  21. CAPRICCIOSA Itinerary

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