Automating Static AIS Data


This research note talks about the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which was developed to track vessel movements and has proven quite effective in dealing with a wide range of problems ranging from fleet monitoring and collision to detecting illegal activities. It states that the globalized economy of the modern world is run on the maritime domain, with ocean transport being the most efficient and effective way of transporting goods around the world. This large movement of people, goods, and vessels across the planet calls for aggressive monitoring and management.

It further notes that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has characterized Maritime domain awareness (MDA) as an effective way of understanding anything associated with the maritime domain. Things that could impact the maritime domain are as follows- the security, safety, economy, or environment of the nation and covers detection, classification, identification, and monitoring of vessels.  This note has presented the use and the research that has gone into AIS to make the maritime domain more accessible and safer. Although enormous efforts and research studies have been conducted, there are still large strides that need to be taken to push and support the economy and safety of the twenty-first century.

Key highlights
  • AIS is mandatory under the IMO SOLAS Agreement for ships of 300 gross tonnages and upwards in international voyages, 500 and upwards for cargoes not in international waters, and passenger vessels.
  • Fishing vessels greater than 15 m sailing in water under the jurisdiction of the European Union Member States shall also be required to be fitted with AIS.
  • In the early days, monitoring attempts were bottlenecked by the lack of available data, today’s problem is the excessive amount of data which is increasingly overwhelming the human operators; requiring the aid of automatic processing to synthesize the behaviors of interest clearly and effectively.
  • Real-time, automated solutions dealing with the detection, classification, and identification of ocean vessels are important capabilities for organizations or countries involved with maritime domain awareness.
  • Automatically identifying, tagging, and tracking cargo and tanker ships will help to keep a check on illegal activities like fuel trading, ship-to-ship oil transfer, illegal transshipment, illegal cargo, and tax evasion.
  • Vessels spoofing AIS data to evade the authorities can risk the integrity of the system. This can further become a major hazard for other vessels at sea which are dependent on AIS for knowing the whereabouts of vessels in the surrounding region and chart a course to avoid maritime accidents.
  • There is high flow of water bodies due to concentration of annual monsoon in one quarter of the year causing excessive siltation. Thus, sediment deposition threatens the sustainability from both onsite and off site damages causing enormous costs to the national economy.
Key recommendations
  • Although enormous efforts and research studies have been conducted, there are still large strides that need to be taken to push and support the economy and the safety of the twenty-first century.
  • Some of the directions which can be taken as research problems include greater automation and analysis of data by combining and cross-referencing data from multiple sources including but not limited to Automatic Identification System (AIS), Synthetic-aperture radar (SAR), Vessel tracking system (VTS) and ocean bed sensors.
  • We all need to look at the Indian Ocean Region with special interest, which not only washed our shores but will also be a key player in determining the centre of gravity of influence and power in this century.

“The accuracy of AIS information received is only as good as the accuracy of the AIS information transmitted, thus automating as many fields as possible will result in a more robust and trustable system.”


Aayush Jain, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani; Dr (cdr) Arnab Das, MRC, Pune and Shridhar Prabhuraman, MRC, Pune