More AIS in the USA, the new USCG requirements

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

11 Responses

  1. I’m with you, Ben – the more vessels that have it, the better the system works.
    I also think that the cost of these devices should also decrease as the population goes up, but perhaps there just aren’t enough boats out there to make a real difference. For sure the technology will continue to progress, however, which should also tend to decrease cost (and size) as well as enhance the feature sets.
    For example, I would love to have a low-power AIS to take on my kayak while poking around the bay – my wife could see where I was, and I would be less likely to be run over (kayaks ARE hard to see sometimes). I have an AIS emergency beacon now, but that’s not the same thing.

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hi Hartley. What might really chop AIS Class B transponder cost is if one can be integrated with a VHF radio, and while I used to think that was impossible I’ve recently heard different. It’s not for sure, but may happen.
    Meanwhile, SRT makes a completely self-contained Class B that could work great on a kayak. I tried one once and was impressed long battery life and fair range, and I also saw the True Heading version in heavy use during a long race in Sweden:
    In Maine many of the lobstermen refer to sea kayaks as “speed bumps” but I think they’re joking 😉

  3. “4,232 days in the making!” — That’s way over 11 years. According to Wikipedia, the first AIS mandate was IMO SOLAS in 2002. The day count must be from the first Federal Regulations for AIS, published in the Federal Register: October 22, 2003.
    That document is similar to the new one, so it is interesting to compare them.
    At the end of the “get’er done” comments, Ben asks why I thought the new rules were more about security than safety. Yes there is a lot of overlap in those two terms, and no I have no way of even guessing about motives. I can only see what has been written into the new regulations and the comments about those changes which are written in the rule making document.
    Scanning through the document, you will see lots about MSA and NOA and NOD. AIS in this context amounts to ship-to-shore communication, which is both safety and security, although the security aspect is the one with the most comment. The benefit is more to the people on shore. The ship-to-ship aspect of AIS is certainly valued, but not commented on much.
    From section VI.B.3

    As for requiring AIS on other vessels beyond what we proposed in the NPRM, we extended applicability to self-propelled vessels engaged in the movement of flammable or combustible liquid cargo in bulk, so we would be sure to include vessels moving gasoline or propane as cargo. As we previously stated, we encourage all commercial vessels to equip themselves with AIS. However, this final rule requires AIS only on those vessels for which we have authority to require carriage of AIS; that is, for those vessels specifically identified in MTSA, and other vessels including passenger vessels, that we have determined require AIS for the safe navigation of the vessel.

    MTSA is definitely security. I think of AIS as broadcast which gives the gift of safe navigation to other vessels.
    Some vessels will resist until required, but I think that most will want AIS because it offers them some value even if it is not required.
    PS. The kayak AIS is a great idea; I wonder when that will be approved.

  4. Steve says:

    Hi Ben,
    This being the final rule, does it mean that Class E style AIS like Boat Beacon’s (AIS over Mobile Internet) didn’t make the cut? Boat Beacon’s AIS position reception is a great solution for the Kayak user where there is coverage for spotting other boats and ships and family and friends can keep an eye on their position from home too. We have a lot of row boats and canoes using our app for spotting the other boats around them over their short horizon. We are also noticing more and more Coast Guards ( especially the voluntary ones ) using Internet AIS informally both with apps and on web displays at their stations. Folks using Internet AIS apps like Boat Beacon to share position will show up on these if you have an MMSI number .
    I wonder how far a class B AIS would be seen from an aerial that close to the water on a kayak with an horizon of only a mile or so at best? Range will be mainly determined by the height of the receiving aerial , so very ‘hit and miss’ on which boats will be able to see you and from how far away. A large ship with an aerial at 30′ would see from about 6 to 7 miles if they keep their CPA alarms on , a fast rib with an aerial on the transom at 4′ ‘ might only see 2 miles away. On small boats I think it is always best to assume you won’t be seen and use AIS receive over VHF or Internet to spot your potential nemesis and then call them up on VHF radio with their ship’s name ( or MMSI) if you think there could be a collision, or call the Coast Guard on your cellphone and ask them to contact the ship.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Steve, you bring up some good points.
    I don’t think that Internet AIS failed to “make the cut” but I didn’t see it mentioned in the Final Rule’s many pages. Nor have I seen much mention anywhere of the more formal Internet AIS idea known as Class E, though I once thought it would be huge:
    AIS coverage via Internet and cell phone is better over here than it used to be, but I still wish the Dept of Homeland Security would make their coverage available to apps like yours and of course the SmartChart AIS app they actually financed!

  6. some dude says:

    Whether privately owned or commercial, airplanes or boats. No vessel, remotely piloted vehicle, or conveyance, should ever be able to travel without proper federal monitoring. If it saves just one life every intrusion in the world is worth it right?
    Please, can you guys tighten your nooses just a bit tighter?

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Seriously, dude? You think it’s an invasion of privacy for the U.S. government to mandate AIS transceivers on commercial vessels like tugs, fishing, and passenger boats? Just like many, many other countries around the world do?
    If you’re worried that the feds are going to mandate AIS on recreational boats, you might want to read this debate:
    Since that 2011 conversation, the USCG has not made a single move to mandate AIS or any other tracking system on pleasure vessels, just like they hadn’t before 2011.
    But of course they are watching all kinds of vessels along our coasts, especially ones near “soft targets” like cruise ships or busy waterfronts. They have to.
    And I still contend that pleasure vessels who voluntarily identify themselves with AIS are less likely to be boarded or otherwise hassled. It’s certainly seemed true of my boat, though it’s bristling with technology and has been near a lot of sensitive areas since 2011. I haven’t been boarded once. Where’s the noose?

  8. Howard says:

    My Gmail/Facebook/LinkedIn accounts are far more invasive than my AIS. My employment and salary records are public record. My employer GIVES my salary and employment info to Equifax (The Workplace verification system is owned by Equifax). Oh and since I have Verizon and AT&T cell services, they know where I am tool.
    I am not too worried about AIS.

  9. Quitsa says:

    Anyone with a voluntary AIS installation always has the option of getting a unit with a “silent” switch that turns off the transmitter. I turn mine off sometimes when fishing offshore if I don’t want to attract “new friends” with AIS receivers to the area I am working. Very happy to have the transponder on when running in high traffic areas or in limited visibility.

  10. How many lives does it have to save to make an expense worth it? This is different from Some Dude’s question. He is talking about Big Brother, and we know from experience of the whole range of governments from left to right, up or down, if Big Brother wants to intrude, “saving lives” is just a cover excuse. So back to my question — it’s a question impossible to answer, and any answer would vary from day to day and it would depend on whose lives. It’s all a balance, between security and convenience, between safety and cost. All we can ask is that the rules be reasonable, and in the case of AIS I think they are.
    It’s not just the lives that are actually lost that matter. There are also the lives of the survivors and the lives of those who have to search for lost sailors. You may have wondered how much better it would have been for flight 370 to have been using some AIS equivalent.
    Here is a sailing example that could be used to encourage AIS and/or EPIRB requirements:
    He didn’t say where he was going, so the CG couldn’t do a search. Another example is the guy just found after being missing at sea for 66 days. He might think an EPIRB is worth it next time.
    I hear some places are encouraging hikers to take a selfie of themselves by trail signs and post them online, to make it easier for those searching for them when they go missing. You can wear a helmet on your bike for yourself or do it for your mother, but don’t be surprised if big brother takes an interest.

  11. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Is the year of the AIS coming soon to Long Island Sound? AIS is not well adopted in Long Island Sound in the Huntington / Norwalk area. In the past 4 years, only 2-3 recreational boats might be spotted at any given time transmitting, with no obvious increase in adoption year over year (a 10-20% increase in adoption wouldn’t necessarily add a single boat).
    On this Memorial day weekend, while traveling from Huntington to Saugatuck, CT at any time 10 recreational boats could be found transmitting simultaneously as counted using a Raymarine AIS650 and a stern rail antenna.
    Past informal surveys of local boaters, were a good indication AIS receivers were not being adopted in the area either.
    Maybe this year becomes pivotal in the adoption of AIS in our moderately busy waterway.

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