Mariners can now use an online service that will help them determine if their automatic identification system (AIS) is properly configured, which in turn supports compliance with AIS carriage requirements in the United States.
The new Vessel Identification Verification Service (VIVS) launched by the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center allows maritime agents, owners and operators to tap into the Web to learn if their vessels comply with AIS data mandates.
“Currently over 50 percent of vessels in U.S. waterways transmit questionable AIS information and a vast majority of them do this unknowingly,” said Lt. Cmdr. Marlon Heron, the Coast Guard project leader. “VIVS was introduced to provide mariners with a centralized means to ascertain the content of their static AIS broadcasts.”
Heron told Professional Mariner that the Coast Guard has made VIVS available to help AIS users verify what they are broadcasting. VIVS search results also highlight any potential AIS static data inconsistencies and may even prompt mariners to take corrective action if warranted.
With the new service, AIS users can determine from their units what is supposed to be broadcast, as VIVS provides them with a glance of what is received by the Coast Guard’s Nationwide AIS. Crucially, they are not able to find out what is received by other AIS users, providing an element of security.
The biggest issue the Coast Guard sees in terms of AIS compliance is making sure the unit is broadcasting accurate information, which usually can be ensured by proper installation.
“AIS is designed to operate autonomously and continuously without user interventions,” Heron said. “That said, there are a few data parameters that require manual upkeep. Keeping this information, such as the vessel’s navigation status — i.e., underway or at anchor — its origination and destination (route), and its ETA up to date is of great importance to the overall safety of all AIS users.”
The Coast Guard is keen to point out that many AIS users are unaware of how their system was configured at installation. For example, data from approximately 20 percent of AIS users does not reflect their vessel’s dimensions accurately, an important factor in determining the risk of collision. Through a combination of VIVS, the AIS Encoding Guide, outreach and media support, the Coast Guard hopes to limit improper encoding of AIS devices.
In an effort to reduce the burden on workboats or vessels that do not engage in extended voyages, the Coast Guard has issued guidance to simplify a vessel’s data entry. This is detailed in the encoding guide available on the Navigation Center website (www.navcen.uscg.gov).
By leveraging existing information technology resources, the Navigation Center has completed VIVS with virtually no additional hardware or software investment. Existing Coast Guard enterprise IT tools are used to provide the information generated by VIVS.
VIVS is designed to be user-friendly and it is fairly intuitive. It is the only publicly available online resource that allows mariners to view vessel-specific AIS broadcast data from many mobile and desktop platforms and compare it to expected broadcast data from sources used by the Coast Guard. This helps the user identify potential inconsistencies.