The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is an automated tracking system used on ships and by Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships and VTS stations. AIS information supplements marine radar, which continues to be the primary method of collision avoidance for water transport.
Information provided by AIS equipment, such as unique identification, position, course, and speed, can be displayed on a screen or an ECDIS. AIS is intended to assist a vessel’s watchstanding officers and allow maritime authorities to track and monitor vessel movements. AIS integrates a standardised VHF transceiver with a positioning system such as a LORAN-C or GPS receiver, with other electronic navigation sensors, such as a gyrocompass or rate of turn indicator. Ships outside AIS radio range can be tracked with the Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) system with less frequent transmission.
The International Maritime Organization‘s (IMO) International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires AIS to be fitted aboard international voyaging ships with gross tonnage (GT) of 300 or more tons, and all passenger ships regardless of size. It is estimated that more than 40,000 ships currently carry AIS class A.