Automatic Identification System (AIS)
AIS is probably the single biggest advance in collision avoidance in recent years.
AIS is a collision avoidance system that operates in the upper end of the marine VHF band. Vessels equipped with an AIS transponder broadcast information such as Vessel Name, MMSI, position, course and speed and navigational status at a regular time interval. Other vessels and shore-based receiving stations receive this information and display the vessels as targets on either a dedicated display or overlaid on the chartplotter screen.
In order to transmit its position, a vessel must have a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI). This is a unique number assigned to the vessel by AMSA that identifies the vessel. It must be programmed into the transponder before it can operate. A vessel operator must apply to AMSA for an MMSI. There is no charge for this service however, there is a requirement for the operator to hold a valid Radio Operator’s Certificate of Proficiency.
For more information on AIS, visit the AMSA website.
There is a network of AIS Receiving Stations that cover sections of the coastline of Australia and other countries. Some of these are operated by port authorities but most are operated by volunteers and AIS enthusiasts. The information is collected and uploaded to websites such as marinetraffic.com where ship positions can be displayed on a Google map.