SeaVieweR, and more on Class B
Shine Micro is not the only company offering a Class B workaround, i.e. a high-end AIS receiver that can later be turned easily into a full Class B transponder. The same is true of the SeaVieweR above, and bigger here, which is built in the U.K. by SevenStar and distributed to technical dealers in the U.S. by Whiffletree. The SeaViewR costs $995 in receive-only mode, which includes a purportedly high precision GPS, and another $400 plus tech time to make it into a transponder. Why would you want a workaround when the FCC has finally approved Class B? Well, it’s still going to take some time to get complete transponders to market. And besides you may need a technical dealer to install a Class B, whether it’s from SevenStar or another manufacturer:
The FCC’s emphasis on inputing valid static data makes sense, I think; even if the existing invalid MMSI numbers were mostly entered by electronics professionals, making a bigger deal out of it will make them more careful. But while the manufacturers I’ve spoken with are delighted that FCC Class B device certification is finally underway, they aren’t sure how long it will take, or exactly how the static data rule will play out.
For instance, when the FCC says static data can only be entered by the vendor or “an appropriately qualified person in the business of installing marine communications equipment on board vessels”, does the latter mean a person holding an FCC General Radiotelephone Operator License? That seems like overkill, but fortunately some dealer/installers have that license (and NMEA is working with the FCC to incorporate the material in its certification system).
There are also concerns about the database of U.S. only MMSI numbers, which apparently is kept by the U.S.C.G. and is not accessible. Shouldn’t a responsible installer be able to check that an MMSI really does belong to you? So some Class B details remain a little vague. Next week I’m going to the NMEA Conference, which will include a meeting with FCC and USCG reps. Maybe I’ll learn more!
PS. SevenStar/Whiffletree also offer this $199 combination GPS/AIS antenna, which is normally vertical.