AIS is a maritime communications device. It uses the Very High Frequency (VHF) radio broadcasting system to transfer data.
AIS equipped vessels and shore-based stations can send and receive identification information that can be displayed on an electronic chart, computer display or compatible navigation radar.
AIS improve navigation safety and environmental protection by assisting in the effective navigation of ships. The information provided by AIS can help in situational awareness and provide a means to assist in collision avoidance. In addition, AIS can be used as an aid to navigation by providing location and additional information on buoys and lights.
AIS works automatically and continuously, regardless of where a vessel is located. There are two dedicated frequencies used for AIS – AIS 1 (channel 87B) and AIS 2 (channel 88B).
All AIS units require a MMSI to operate. MMSIs are allocated according to international standards.
Apply for an Australian MMSI number by completing an MMSI application online or by downloading the form http://www.amsa.gov.au/forms-and-publications/AMSA89.pdf
The publicly available AIS websites (such as Marinetraffic.com) are a crowd-based approach to AIS information. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has condemned the display of AIS on public websites. The AIS receivers used for this purpose are not certified AIS base stations and may not provide accurate or valid data.
Under SOLAS and the relevant IMO guidelines, the Master of any vessel has the discretion to turn off the AIS unit if its continual operation might compromise the vessel’s safety or security.
AIS Class B transceiver equipment is approximately $1,000 and needs to integrate with a PC or Chart Plotter, VHF aerial and a GPS receiver. A cheaper alternative is a receiver only at around $500.