How do you configure your AIS and why?


#1

Hi all,

I’m a researcher at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/NOAA Joint Hydrographic Center in New Hampshire (research blog: http://schwehr.org/blog). I’ve been working with AIS for a couple of years now… ways to get information to mariners and ways to understand how mariners move about. After looking at the settings people put into their devices and configuring a bunch of units myself, I’ve seen that there are a lot of different styles for what is done. It would be a huge help to know what your strategy is for setting the vessel type, draught, length, width, name, call sign, ship and cargo type, ETA, and destination fields. Many vessels set it once and leave it, while others change one or more of these all the time. I’ve looked at a few books that are used for teaching and haven’t seen any guidance on best practices and the AIS standards documents don’t say much. Are you or someone above you setting some quidelines for what you do?

I got some great initial discussion:

A few of the things I see:

  • Parameters set at AIS install time
  • Parameters (sometimes partialy) changed when the vessel is sold
  • There are ships that change when the pilot gets on board and then go right back after the pilot leaves
  • Ships that look like they change with the watch stander changes
  • Changes when a vessel enters of leaves port
  • Random changes
  • When there are power glitches (e.g. Nauticast devices that reset to factory defaults)
  • Tugs that become Tows and some that change their length to match what they are towing.
  • Tows that never change length or status even when not towing
  • Vessels where the length randomly changes (turned out to be a lighting strike on the ship)
    etc…

Understanding why you do what you do with your AIS device would be hugely helpful for those trying to use AIS to help understand what we see. We are looking at AIS to try to help direct where (in the US - NOAA) hydrographic offices will focus surveys and how to manage waterways better.

Here is an example of an interesting draught history for a vessel, while others are static (frequently with a draught of 0):

It would be great if we could start working towards best practices for the community!

Thanks!
-Kurt


#2

Ais is one of the best tools to have on any vessel small or big
Insteed of say hay you or the boat at this position the knowing of there name and being able to talk directly to them in traffic is great it also helps to be able to look ahead for meeting in tight spots
The info that is regularly changed depends on the master or mate and the unit you have some are easy and have more info on them some are hard to imput and have little info but all in all ais even on a small sail boat is the best thing to have
The need to know information on a meeting vessel is important if he is forein or a tug or a ship being able to know his attitude gives you a better understanding of what he is going to do in a turn for example if he is going to slow are you going to suck him over to you some of the best ais give you CPA these are the best well hope that help …,??


#3

Hi Kurt,
You might want to call either MITAGS or PMI (www.mitags.org or www.mates.org). They’ve got some really good AIS / ENAV instructors that could talk with you. I’m thinking specifically of Steve Burtchael and Jorge Gutman from PMI.
Doug Pine, PMI Instructor, is on this board every now and then, maybe he can comment?
Good luck,
Fran


#4

My fears about AIS are coming true, and I’m seeing it more and more these days. Please, do not use AIS for collision avoidance!!! It was never designed to be used for anything but an identification system, and nothing more. The CPA info you get from your AIS is [B]WRONG AT ALL TIMES, period. [/B]If you think it is safe to make collision avoidance decisions using AIS, you don’t understand how it works. The only AIS unit that sends out correct information is the one you have personally set up and verified.

Please avoid the temptation to fall into the complacency that e-nav technology induces. Learn the stuff inside and out, use it in proper context and be skeptical at all times.


#5

[quote=Kurt;14552]It would be great if we could start working towards best practices for the community!

Thanks!
-Kurt[/quote]

I love AIS for it’s usefulness helping me identify targets. But I don’t want to use it for anything else because I can’t trust anything that may be changed by the user. My idea of a best practice is that the AIS should be set up with static data per vessel, and then pretty much left alone. If someone really wants to know my draft they can call me on the VHF. If they really want to know the Pilot’s name they can call me on the VHF. Personally I would choose to change dynamic data only when some regulator forces me to. I’ve got enough to keep me busy already than to have to go and change a field when the pilot comes aboard, and if I’m on a vessel that requires a pilot then the powers that be will know already. Understand that I’m speaking from the frame of reference of a tug boater, who inhabits the pilothouse alone most of the time. Deep draft types have the luxury of delegating this kind of stuff to someone else.

The MKD (Minimum Keyboard Display) is way too unfriendly for everyday use. Some fields can be altered via electronic charting systems such as the Transas Navi-Sailor.

I totally agree with the earlier post that emphasized not using AIS for collision avoidance, and when I teach students about AIS I try to pound that into their heads. But I constantly see people using AIS, especially when the radar is set to display AIS targets, for collision avoidance. It sends shivers down my spine.


#6

[QUOTE=Capt_Anonymous;14570]My fears about AIS are coming true, and I’m seeing it more and more these days. Please, do not use AIS for collision avoidance!!! It was never designed to be used for anything but an identification system, and nothing more. The CPA info you get from your AIS is [B]WRONG AT ALL TIMES, period. [/B]If you think it is safe to make collision avoidance decisions using AIS, you don’t understand how it works. [/QUOTE]

Thanks to Capt_A and DougPine for their input. Both are correct in that AIS should never be used for collision avoidance. It’s a great source of information, but only as good as the data input and output. There are far to many Mates out there using it incorrectly. Frankly, that scares the crap out of me. I do believe, as was stated before, that the units are way to unfriendly. Sending messages or changing data is a pain. But in deep sea, we do make it a habit of changing the voyage data, such as nav status, destination, and ETA. I’m not a big fan advertising the number of crew on board, though. I don’t think that should be public information. I usually delete that. If you navigate in the English Channel and Dover Straits, and your data is not correct, Vessel Traffic (and other vessels) will call you on it. There may be some other places where this is the case.


#7

Can you tell I last worked on harbor tugs? I forgot about destination and ETA. Mike173 is right, you’ll get called on it if you don’t update those. Also, a safety feature built in to the AIS units will automatically change the reporting interval based on speed and rate of turn, regardless of the nav status field, because lots of people forget to update that one.


#8

[QUOTE=dougpine;14582]Also, a safety feature built in to the AIS units will automatically change the reporting interval based on speed and rate of turn, regardless of the nav status field, because lots of people forget to update that one.[/QUOTE]

That’s a good reminder. I couldn’t remember the reporting intervals, so I had to look it up. This came directly from the Furuno FA100 User’s Manual. It illustrates the need to update your nav status. At 23+ knots, you’d sure want your status (not to mention other targets) updated more often than every 3 minutes.

Ship’s navigation status Reporting interval
Moored 3 min
0-14 kt speed 10 s
0-14 kt speed with course change 3+1/3 s
14-23 kt speed 6 s
14-23 kt speed with course change 2 s
Speed higher than 23 kt 2 s
Speed higher than 23 kt with course change 2 s


#9

Click HERE for the MAIB report on a collision between the “Hyndai Dominion” and the “Sky Hope” in the South China Sea in 2004. Among several mistakes made on both vessels, the OOW on the “Dominion” attempted to use the text messaging feature in his AIS to make passing arrangements. Good reading!


#10

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#11

I fixed the broken link in the original post, and here it is too.


#12

Wow good read.

Like the part were the reports says that sending the txt message was a waste of time.

What blows my mind is that everybody in the wheel house claims to not know how the throttle worked. From reading is seems like all you had to do was pull them back. Makes one wonder what type of terror shop they work in when they are afraid to pull `em back. Even if the report decided that doing so was not the best option, still Hyundai policy stated that in a collision scenario that the OOW should slow down . Scary as hell that they guy in charge didn’t know how to use all his tools.

I teach and follow the motto, “When in doubt pull `em back”.

AIS is a tool, just like the radar and arpa. They have there place, but none of them take the place your eyes.

As for what I use it for, the last one I used was a really bad Naticast unit that took for ever to update when we left the dock, so by the time it updated we were already out of traffic. If for some reason it actually started working before then, finding out that name of the boat in front of me at night is about all I ever used it for as there was no chart plotter hooked up to it.

As for updating information on it, just were im going and time if I think about it. The boats I work on might change draft by 3 ft max so changing that really isn’t worth the time.

I just want to reiterate what has been said before. By the time the AIS has updated it’s self and you have digested it, its already old and out of date. And that can be said for everything electronic in the wheelhouse. About the only thing constanly up to date is your magnetic compass and your eyes.


#13

Pull em back? These are ships, you change course to avoid a collision, not slow down.

Attempting to use the AIS messenger was dumb. Should have hailed on VHF if there was any concern. And he should have started being worried before the ship was that close.

Just my opinion, and opinions are like…

I’ve always changed destination and eta on the unit. A bunch of VTS zones even have codes for the dock your ship is headed to. I just enter in what ever the captain wants.


#14

AIS is normally set while testing gear for departure. I have sailed on 1000ft containerships to Asia as well as coastal tankers and most ships use the same procedure. Normally the 2/M will test gear as the Chief Mate
is busy with cargo paper work. Most AIS’s are menu driven and info such as draft, next port, speed, current status (underway using engines, anchored,etc…) and ETA are inputted. I totally agree that AIS is just another tool to be used by the Mate on watch in safely navigating
the vessel. Sometimes it is best just to look out the window in attaining your. “situational awareness”.

Ship Mate 1


#15

Hey Everybody,

I appreciate the discussion. Please hang in here with me as I try to figure out how to craft my questions to get at the info that I am looking for.

Things like CPA and position aren’t really the issue here for me (well, accept for the occasional unit that seems to have bad quality GPS positions). The AIS unit will take care of the reporting rates and CPA calculations have a whole set of other issues.

What really triggered my thoughts on best practices was visiting a maritime academy and talking to instructors and professionals. What I am looking for is what the mariner does out on the water and why. It was great to hear that some VTS’s will call about incorrect AIS data. I knew about San Francisco, but didn’t know of any others.

I think that everyone can agree that the “minimum keyboard displays” are just horrible. Setting up a class B for the first time was much easier than the Class A, but then I discovered that the software would only let me pick a few of the shipandcargo types. For a small research vessel, this is trouble, so I tried to pick something vaguely close to what it is.

As for asking over VHF, we just can’t. I log 4-5GB of AIS messages a day… on Friday of last week, that was 62 million AIS messages. And I only log in the United States. When I go back and do an anlysis in an area, we are usually a few months down the road. For our last analysis of Hampton Roads, we had to throw out over have of the AIS traffic as unfit for analysis. We are trying to characterize useage of the harbor to help NOAA, USCG and others to make the port a better place for mariners, but if the data is bad, then it won’t be used to help out. If everyone were to set their categories the same way, I could then pull all the tug traffic and separate it from the tows and know what that implied.

I’m starting to think through a list of questions to ask. I’m not sure these are best done questions ever, but what do you think about these:

AIS Operational Use Questionnaire

  • Does your company or organization have a policy on how the AIS should be configured and used?

  • Do you have a Class A or Class B unit?

  • Who did the initial configuration (or do you know)?

  • How was the location of the AIS reference point surveyed for your vessel?

  • Is there a maintenance schedule?

  • Do you know how to change the settings on the AIS?

  • Do you check the AIS at the beginning of each shift? If so, how?

  • How does the procedure compare to checks on your radar

  • Do you control the AIS settings through the keypad (MKD) on the AIS unit, through an ECDIS, other ECS, or a separate computer program?

  • What shipandcargo value do you set? Do you change it? If so, why?

  • Do you ever change then length (size fields A and B), width (C and D) or draught? If so, when and why?

  • Do you set your ETA and Destination?

  • Do you use the navigation status? How and when do you change it?

  • Have you every had your AIS fail? If so how has it failed? (e.g. Nauticast devices reseting to the factory defaults on certain power glitches)

  • Do you let other vessels know if their AIS parameters seem wrong?

  • Have you ever been told by other vessels or officials that your AIS settings are likely wrong?

  • Have you ever received an AIS text message that was useful?

  • Do you ever send AIS text messages?

Background info…

  • How would you say what type of vessel you operate?
  • What type do you have set in your AIS unit?
  • What size is your vessel

#16

On ships I’ve been on since the introduction of AIS most of the shipboard procedures were written before the installation of AIS so it can be hit or miss, some were able to incorporate updating the AIS into the pre-departure checklist. On others the checklist are considered to be carved in stone and on those ships it was hit or miss if anyone remembered to update it or not. If the status changes, for example having to go to anchor or changing the destination it is again hit or miss.

The fact that many ships cannot correctly set-up the AIS should tell us something about how well these ships are able to cope with their workload in general.

The first AIS unit I encounter was a GPS unit without GPS functions. I was almost impossible to use without referring to the instructions. If a pilot would try to scroll down to find a particular ship I would tell him that if he figured out how to use it he would be the only person on board so far who had. More recently the units have been more user friendly, or I should say less user unfriendly.

Another factor with incorrect settings is that mates on watch in open waters become bored and some start fiddling with the equipment.


#17
  • Does your company or organization have a policy on how the AIS should be configured and used?
    [B]Yes[/B]

  • Do you have a Class A or Class B unit?
    [B]Class A[/B]

  • Who did the initial configuration (or do you know)?
    [B]I assisted the tech by providing the initial data and input[/B]

  • How was the location of the AIS reference point surveyed for your vessel?
    [B]Installed by technician[/B]

  • Is there a maintenance schedule?
    [B]No formal maintenance[/B]

  • Do you know how to change the settings on the AIS?
    [B]Yes[/B]

  • Do you check the AIS at the beginning of each shift? If so, how?
    [B]Yes[/B], [B]compare the list of targets on the MKD to the radar display and data display of the chartplotter[/B]

  • How does the procedure compare to checks on your radar
    [B]No comparison, the radar is tuned and set to my preference, the AIS is static and basically untouched unless the list of targets need to be scrolled for confirmation.[/B]

  • Do you control the AIS settings through the keypad (MKD) on the AIS unit, through an ECDIS, other ECS, or a separate computer program?
    [B]MKD[/B]

  • What shipandcargo value do you set? Do you change it? If so, why?[B]
    None[/B]

  • Do you ever change then length (size fields A and B), width (C and D) or draught? If so, when and why?
    [B]No, did I mention I have an MKD[/B]?

  • Do you set your ETA and Destination?
    [B]No[/B]

  • Do you use the navigation status? How and when do you change it?
    [B]No, seldom if ever[/B]

  • Have you every had your AIS fail? If so how has it failed? (e.g. Nauticast devices resetting to the factory defaults on certain power glitches)
    [B]Yes, requiring, restart[/B]

  • Do you let other vessels know if their AIS parameters seem wrong?
    [B]Yes[/B]

  • Have you ever been told by other vessels or officials that your AIS settings are likely wrong?
    [B]No[/B]

  • Have you ever received an AIS text message that was useful?
    [B]Yes, the message was retrieved on the chartplotter’s GUI display, not the AIS unit.[/B]

  • Do you ever send AIS text messages?
    [B]No[/B]

Background info…

  • How would you say what type of vessel you operate? [B]AT/B[/B]
  • What type do you have set in your AIS unit? [B]Tug[/B]
  • What size is your vessel [B]550’ x 74’ x 22’
    [/B]
    Hope this was helpful.
    bb

#18

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  • Does your company or organization have a policy on how the AIS should be configured and used?
    [B]No[/B]

  • Do you have a Class A or Class B unit?
    [B]Class A[/B]

  • Who did the initial configuration (or do you know)?
    [B]A tech[/B]

  • How was the location of the AIS reference point surveyed for your vessel?
    [B]Installed by technician[/B]

  • Is there a maintenance schedule?
    [B]No [/B]

  • Do you know how to change the settings on the AIS?
    [B]Yes[/B]

  • Do you check the AIS at the beginning of each shift? If so, how?
    [B]No formal requirement for checking[/B]

  • How does the procedure compare to checks on your radar
    [B]N/A watch turnover checklist used for radar [/B]

  • Do you control the AIS settings through the keypad (MKD) on the AIS unit, through an ECDIS, other ECS, or a separate computer program?
    [B]MKD[/B]

  • What shipandcargo value do you set? Do you change it? If so, why?[B]
    None[/B]

  • Do you ever change then length (size fields A and B), width (C and D) or draught? If so, when and why?
    [B]Some mates change the draft[/B]

  • Do you set your ETA and Destination?
    [B]Yes[/B]

  • Do you use the navigation status? How and when do you change it?
    [B]Yes, pre-departure, otherwise if someone thinks of it.[/B]

  • Have you every had your AIS fail? If so how has it failed? (e.g. Nauticast devices resetting to the factory defaults on certain power glitches)
    [B]Yes, requiring,replacement[/B]

  • Do you let other vessels know if their AIS parameters seem wrong?
    [B]Yes, some mates do.[/B]

  • Have you ever been told by other vessels or officials that your AIS settings are likely wrong?
    [B]Don’t know - In Europe when it failed I was told we would not be allowed to leave the next port till it was replaced. [/B]

  • Have you ever received an AIS text message that was useful?
    [B]Not that I know, text function not user friendly, the mate often has his hands full in traffic to be fooling around with AIS keyboard [/B]

  • Do you ever send AIS text messages?
    [B]No[/B]

Background info…

  • How would you say what type of vessel you operate? [B]PCTC[/B]
  • What type do you have set in your AIS unit? [B]Cargo[/B]
  • What size is your vessel [B]200m x 32.2 m x 8-9 m [/B]

#19

My new ship hasn’t been built yet and we are still writing policy so I’ll answer the questions from the pov of my last vessel:

  • Does your company or organization have a policy on how the AIS should be configured and used?
    No

  • Do you have a Class A or Class B unit?
    A

  • Who did the initial configuration (or do you know)?
    Technician and 2/m working together.

  • How was the location of the AIS reference point surveyed for your vessel?
    We use dynamic positioning, so all GPS antennas are accurately mapped.

  • Is there a maintenance schedule?
    Monthly test, maintenance if you find a problem.

  • Do you know how to change the settings on the AIS?
    Yes

  • Do you check the AIS at the beginning of each shift? If so, how?
    No

  • How does the procedure compare to checks on your radar
    Less important

  • Do you control the AIS settings through the keypad (MKD) on the AIS unit, through an ECDIS, other ECS, or a separate computer program?
    MKD

  • What shipandcargo value do you set? Do you change it? If so, why?
    Closest match… but every drillship seems to set it different since their is no matching category.

  • Do you ever change then length (size fields A and B), width (C and D) or draught? If so, when and why?
    Verified the length settings monthly, changed draft rarely even if actual draft changed (considered unimportant since we were never near shore).

  • Do you set your ETA and Destination?
    ETA, no. Destination, yes.

  • Do you use the navigation status? How and when do you change it?
    Yes, we were religious about this since we often changed between RAM and underway.

  • Have you every had your AIS fail? If so how has it failed? (e.g. Nauticast devices reseting to the factory defaults on certain power glitches)
    Yes but I was not involved in the fix.

  • Do you let other vessels know if their AIS parameters seem wrong?
    Yes, if I knew someone aboard or if an important setting was wrong.

  • Have you ever been told by other vessels or officials that your AIS settings are likely wrong?
    Yes.

  • Have you ever received an AIS text message that was useful?
    Never

  • Do you ever send AIS text messages?
    Only as a test.
    Background info…

  • How would you say what type of vessel you operate?
    Exploratory drillship.

  • What type do you have set in your AIS unit?
    Underwater Operations mostly.

  • What size is your vessel
    750 ft


#20

Thanks for those responses! I will be using those to try to craft a research quality survey in the next few weeks.

-kurt