AIS message volume has grown tenfold in a decade and increasing demand means new solutions are needed, writes exactEarth CEO Peter Mabson.
The Automatic Identification System (AIS) has fundamentally changed the landscape for monitoring in the maritime domain in a relatively short time. Since its inception as a short-range collision avoidance system, AIS tracking technology has taken flight, with AIS transponders deployed aboard all large vessels and many smaller vessels around the globe, providing a complete global picture of the world’s shipping activity.
The technology’s effectiveness has seen use of satellite and land based AIS expand dramatically. While not all satellite-AIS systems are created equal, the right S-AIS system is capable of delivering maritime AIS products and services of high enough quality to create real value for users in government and commercial sectors.
AIS is used in applications ranging from pollution control and environmental monitoring to vessel routeing and traffic management, security and geofencing and validation of vessel declaration, fisheries protection, vessel safety monitoring and vessel performance analysis.
AIS data is also critical to a new class of vessel tracking and online chartering and trading platforms that rely on highly accurate position data for supply/demand analysis, vessel fixing and fleet positions.
AIS data plays a crucial role in the vessel performance toolkits; it creates valuable and reliable vessel routing data to advanced vessel performance analytics. AIS data can also generate a decision-making foundation in transforming performance data into actionable information.
Its importance to both commercial and government users is set to increase further as pressure grows to monitor carbon and sulfur emissions on a vessel by vessel basis. The data gathered from vessels will be used to correlate to emissions for compliance with local and international regulations and for broader energy efficiency performance that will feed into the relationship between shipowners and their finance providers.
The importance of AIS to international shipping means that reliable data is the foundation of good decision-making; no organisation wants to make strategic or tactical decisions based on data they do not trust.
To put this in a maritime context, consider the data on which search and rescue teams must act with minutes to spare and lives to save. Government agencies must determine whether erratic vessel behaviour is innocent or potentially life-threatening; they must also decide whether position reports reflect compliance inside territorial waters with fishing quotas or emissions reporting. In a crowded channel or other chokepoint, Vessel Traffic Management systems must be able to pinpoint course, speed, rate of turn and proximity for dozens of vessels at a time to avoid collisions and keep ships moving.
For vessel operators, the same data has a fundamental contribution to ship, crew, and cargo safety. Commercial decisions with substantial financial implications rely on accurate vessel positions in relation to their next charter. The same drivers to reporting emissions and the data that flows into a noon report are used to demonstrate energy efficiency measures.
In any of these examples, being able to track, monitor and analyse vessel movements with confidence requires accurate, trusted data on which to base the best possible decisions. Evaluation of situational awareness in a crowded channel should never be made on guesswork, just as the decision to make a ballast voyage in search of employment doesn’t have to be a gut feeling when you potentially have data on all the candidate vessels.
Substantial growth in merchant shipping volumes and the need for global vessel tracking has made AIS data ubiquitous across government and commercial applications.
Global vessel tracking using AIS has grown tenfold since 2010, and reliable detection in certain regions has become a challenge for the industry. In regions where there are thousands of AIS-equipped vessels, vessel tracking can be impacted by the sheer number of signals.
Vessel positions are constantly collected using thousands of uniquely equipped AIS vessels, regardless of the density of regional vessel traffic, quality and power of the AIS signals. Because customers expect high data quality and demand reliable, consistent and accurate vessel position updates, an additional layer of data is essential in highly congested shipping areas where an accurate and reliable picture of vessel behaviour is crucial.
To meet these needs, exactEarth has introduced exactAIS Platinum Plus to integrate vessel-based AIS signals in addition to its satellite-based and terrestrial AIS data. Platinum Plus’s introduction to the exactAIS family of services further augments its real-time capability by combining the data from thousands of coastal and vessel-based terrestrial AIS receivers. The added AIS receivers will provide significant additional vessel detection in ports and regions of high vessel density and deliver the latest in real-time global AIS vessel identification and location data services.
The data available to maritime users and government agencies from exactEarth is already recognised as being among the highest quality available from any service provider. Initial observations since the addition of Vessel-AIS to Platinum Plus shows an immediate addition to the volume of position updates and revisits, particularly for vessels in highly-congested sea regions.
This enhanced AIS data supports applications from safety and governance to vessel chartering decisions, delivering insight into operational efficiency, enhanced security and time sensitive information where it is needed most. For government and commercial users vessel tracking provides enhanced maritime domain awareness for improved vessel management, scheduling, environmental protection, search and rescue operations, defence and border security applications.
Because exactEarth is focused solely on acquisition, processing and delivery of AIS data, our customers enjoy uninterrupted service with a high level of consistency. This expertise enables a deep dive into AIS data as the decision-making foundation for better vessel tracking and analytics.
Nothing is more critical to data-driven decision-making than data quality; superior data quality means users can act confidently and make better-informed decisions. By making accurate and reliable data more available to the users that depend on it, we can maintain trust in analytics for an industry that stands to benefit from greater visibility and transparency for performance, safety and compliance.