Automatic Identification Systems, or AIS, are electronic transponders that are placed on ships or boats that identify it by name, position, type, & call sign. The signal is VHF that is continuously sent out over the course of the vessel’s travels.
This VHF signal is valuable because it relays information to other ships about its direction of movement as well as well as its speed. Received VHF signals then provide a visual display of all transmitting ships that are within a certain range. It helps to reduce the chances of collisions on the water by moving water vessels that have the systems. . The data that is received by other AIS-enabled ships is most of the time shown on a personal computer screen or positioned as an overlay on a chart plotter. This will help to confirm radar readout.
Ship navigators utilize AISAIS as a navigational tool to reduce the risk of collision and to chart a safe course to travel. This system also is a valuable tool to help search and rescue operations. The device can pinpoint the exact position of a ship in trouble regardless of weather conditions.
Automatic data exchange allows for real-time adjustments in maritime navigation. Ships with over 300 tons of cargo & all passenger ships are required by the International Maritime Organization to be fitted with the marine guidance system. Recreational boaters are not required by law to use the technology, but the maritime technology is increasing in demand by those users. All over the world, it is thought to be used in over 40,000 vessels.
The primary use of this marine tracking technology is to avoid collisions. It is not a perfect system all in itself. There are known limitations of VHF radio communications, not to mention that not all vessels are fitted with the transponders. It really is just an added tool to that helps determine risk of maritime collision. It is definitely not an automated collision avoidance system as specified by the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).
Sea captains often need help identifying other vessels in a local area in order to make the best decisions on course. That likewise does not necessarily mean that all additional forms of navigational observation is thrown away. There is certainly, of course, visual observation in which the captain will often use binoculars to spot far away obstacles or boats. There is also audio observational alerts that a captain has to pay attention for such as horns, whistles, or VHF broadcast. Finally, there is radar or Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA) that can provide useful navigational data to enhance what the AIS is plotting. Despite having all this technology, accidents can still occur. It is often because of time delays and limitations of radar or even just plain human error whenever this takes place. The graphical charts and all the other observational tools must be utilized if water travel is to be safe and AIS is a small part of that.