How does AIS work?
How does Satellite AIS work?
How does BOD use AIS to monitor vessel activity?
Can I use AIS to communicate with a vessel?
Can AIS be used for Ship Security Alerting System (SSAS) purposes?
Can AIS data be used to investigate historical events or incidents?
Are there alternatives to AIS for use in vessel management applications?
How can AIS be used to assist port-based organisations?
In addition to AIS, what other maritime data can the BOD portal provide?
Can I integrate my own, in house data, with the BOD portal information?
Can the BOD portal be used to monitor containers or other sensitive items of cargo?
Should I have privacy concerns, using AIS data to manage my fleet?
 

How does AIS work?

The International Maritime Organization’s International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea requires that an Automatic Identification System (AIS) device be fitted aboard all international voyaging ships with gross tonnage (GT) of 300 or more, and all passenger ships regardless of size.

An AIS device uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to constantly monitor the vessel’s position. This position information is broadcast using pre-formatted message techniques which can be received and understood by other AIS-equipped vessels in the vicinity. In this way vessels are able to navigate more effectively maintaining safe distances from each other.

AIS coastal stations can monitor the positions of all AIS-fitted vessels within range of the coast (typically out to 20 miles). This allows authorities ashore to improve their awareness of vessel movements and to enhance existing coverage from shore-based radar systems.

In the last 5 years it has become increasingly common for AIS data to be collected using satellites equipped to eavesdrop on the AIS VHF frequencies. This so-called Satellite-AIS (S-AIS) allows AIS data to be collected when ships are beyond the normal coverage of coastal receiving stations (Terrestrial-AIS) thereby providing trans-oceanic vessel monitoring capabilities. The use of satellites means there is a significant cost-of-acquisition of the oceanic AIS data.

 

How does Satellite AIS work?

AIS coastal stations can monitor the positions of all AIS-fitted vessels within range of the coast (typically out to 20 miles). This allows authorities ashore to improve their awareness of vessel movements and to enhance existing coverage from shore-based radar systems.

In the last 5 years it has become increasingly common for AIS data to be collected using satellites equipped to eavesdrop on the AIS VHF frequencies. This so-called Satellite-AIS (S-AIS) allows AIS data to be collected when ships are beyond the normal coverage of coastal receiving stations (Terrestrial-AIS) thereby providing trans-oceanic vessel monitoring capabilities. The use of satellites means there is a significant cost-of-acquisition of the oceanic AIS data.

 

How does BOD use AIS to monitor vessel activity?

BOD takes AIS data from a combination of terrestrial and satellite AIS receivers and combines this with data from a plethora of other sources to provide vessel operators and port agencies with all they need to understand and manage vessel activity.

The AIS information is displayed against a map backdrop based on Google maps but with full access to global sea charts supplied by the C-Map . A single click takes the user from the vessel icon on the map to powerful information such as vessel activity for the last 72hours and the last 10 port calls made by the ship.

A full report suite is available to facilitate more detailed analysis of vessel activity, either on an individual or whole-fleet basis. The production of these reports can be automated and they can be sent to pre-agreed e-mail or SMS addresses on a scheduled basis, if required.

The AIS information is sensitised against weather and seastate information, piracy activity and sensitive areas (such as Nav Area Warnings and Marpol zones).

 

Can I use AIS to communicate with a vessel?

No – the AIS system does not support 2-way communications ship to shore.

For applications where such communications are necessary or where specific data needs to be sent from vessels to operations HQs ashore, dedicated vessel management devices are required. Such devices use maritime communications services (such as Inmarsat and Iridium) to send data from ship to shore, and vice versa. These devices provide high levels of cooperation between vessels and shore-based operating agencies; however, they require the use of satellite airtime for the transmission of the data signals.

For many applications, such as fishery control and offshore security solutions, these so-called cooperative devices are essential. BOD has been supplying end-to-end solutions of this kind since the mid-1990s. We are one of only a few service providers in the world able to mix data from dedicated tracking devices with AIS data for advanced vessel tracking and management applications.

 

Can AIS be used for Ship Security Alerting System (SSAS) purposes?

No – AIS is unsuitable for SSAS because it does not support the sending from ship to shore of a ‘Panic’ alert. Essentially, the SSAS legislation requires a dedicated 2-way tracking and communications device. Typically, Inmarsat-C equipment has been utilised for SSAS although other devices are used to satisfy the requirement.

The BOD portal includes a ‘SSAS Alert Manager’ feature to collect SSAS alerts and send them on to the relevant flag authorities by e-mail and/or SMS. This re-routing of the alert is automatic but is accompanied by an on-screen pop up to alert the local vessel management team. All alerts are recorded in the system database and can be re-produced in report format.

BOD supports a number of different type-approved SSAS devices, including the Sailor 6120, whenever new or replacement equipment is required. Where a supplier of a SSAS service is no longer available or a change in provider is required, existing SSAS equipment can be ‘repointed’ to the BOD portal so that the reporting and alerting functionality can be preserved.

The BOD portal supports the integration of SSAS-derived vessel position information with the global AIS data set to provide enhanced tracking and management services, either for routine operations or for specific maritime security incidents.

 

Can AIS data be used to investigate historical events or incidents?

Yes, BOD has access to historical data from a number of suppliers going back to early 2015. This data can be loaded into the portal and made available directly to the client. Alternatively, BOD can analyse data on behalf of clients providing specific report outputs as required. All data can be exported to PDF, Excel and other common formats.

The BOD portal holds a minimum of 12 months of AIS data live, online for immediate access by its customers at any time.

 

Are there alternatives to AIS for use in vessel management applications?

Prior to AIS being deployed in 2002 it was common practice to use dedicated satellite-based tracking devices to follow ships’ movements. These devices are still widely in use today for specialist applications such as Long Range Identification and Tracking, SSAS, Fisheries Vessel Monitoring, Oilfield Security Solutions, wherever 2-way communications are required to enable cooperation between the vessel at sea and the shore-based management organisation.

BOD pioneered the use of Inmarsat-C for co-operative tracking of fishing vessels in the mid-1990s. Since then, we have used Argos, Globalstar, Inmarsat-D, Iridium, Isat M2M, Orbcomm and Skywave satellite devices and GPRS and short-range radio-based technologies to track and manage vessels both near-shore and deep-sea. We are able to combine data from any of these devices with the global AIS information to provide a data-rich environment for vessel operators and port authorities.

 

How can AIS be used to assist port-based organisations?

The BOD portal constantly monitors vessel movements in relation to all ports throughout the world. Data for each port is held in the BOD database and can be retrieved at the click of a mouse to provide users with:

  • Details of all ships visiting any port in the past XXX months – entry and exit times etc.
  • Details of all ships enroute to a port, with forecast expected arrival time
  • Alerts as vessels enter or leave a port

 

In addition to AIS, what other maritime data can the BOD portal provide?

The BOD portal can collect and integrate data from a large number of dedicated on-board tracking devices from satellite service providers such as Argos, Globalstar, Inmarsat-D, Iridium, Isat M2M, Orbcomm and Skywave. We also have interfaces for GPRS (mobile telephony) and short-range radio for bespoke near-shore vessel management solutions. Data from any of these devices can be mixed with the global AIS picture to provide a very detailed situational awareness for fleet operators.

The portal also provides fully interactive environmental data to aid vessel management such as forecast and current weather (including on-map wind displays), seastate/wave height, ocean currents, piracy incidents and sensitive navigation zones (Marpol, War Risk, Nav Area Warnings).

 

Can I integrate my own, in house data, with the BOD portal information?

The BOD portal has been designed to offer straightforward data exchange with third party systems via a comprehensive Application-programming Interface (API). This software gateway to the BOD data environment allows data to be streamed directly to a clients in-house application environment. A small amount of development will be required to enable this interface which can either be undertaken by the client or by BOD engineers, if required.

Since the inception of the business in the mid1990s, BOD has acted as technology enabler to a wide variety of government organisations and other businesses. We specialise in analysing a client’s specific needs and then finding cost-effective ways of integrating their data into the BOD platform.

Essentially, we can provide a full range of data integration solutions ranging from a straightforward API implementation through to creating a dedicated data environment matching exactly the customer’s needs.

 

Can the BOD portal be used to monitor containers or other sensitive items of cargo?

Should I have privacy concerns, using AIS data to manage my fleet?

The very nature of the AIS system is that the basic vessel data (position, course, speed etc.) is openly available, for safety at sea purposes. This information is, therefore, in the public domain. However, any subsequent manipulation of that data by BOD is undertaken in a highly-secure data environment within which individual clients’ data is held in total privacy. So, whilst BOD has no influence on the privacy or security of AIS data prior to receiving it into our systems, once we have the data we protect it completely together with any subsequent manipulation of the data and any interactions with it.

If a client requires a totally private vessel management solution then the alternative is to fit dedicated tracking devices based on satellite communications for deep-sea applications or GPRS (mobile telephony) and short-range radio for near-shore requirements. In addition to offering complete privacy, these solutions provide 2-way communications enabling direct control of the vessel, if required.

 

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