The automatic identification
system is a must-have on
some boats, a nice option for
others, and expensive overkill
on the rest. Does it belong
on your boat?
Any mariner who’s been around for a couple of decades under- stands just how radically marine lectronics have changed the
way we use and navigate our boats.
GPS/chartplotters have had the most
substantial impact. But there have been
other important advancements, such as
the addition of digital selective calling, or
DSC, to VHF radios, greatly enhanced
radar functionality, vastly improved digital cartography, plus the development of
satellite messengers. All of these electronic advancements have two things in
common: They improve safety at sea and
are widely used by recreational boaters.
Automatic identification systems,
known as AIS, can also significantly
enhance safety. But even though AIS
has been in use for well over a decade,
it hasn’t gained quite the same broad
acceptance as these other advancements.
The usual barriers – cost and complex-
ity – may explain why. But that doesn’t
answer the question of whether or not
you and I should put AIS on our boats.
We’re going to try to fix that right now.
First, what is AIS?
AIS works via a combination of GPS,
VHF radio, and an AIS transponder.
The transponder broadcasts a ship’s
information, such as speed and heading (information gathered by GPS,
of course), the ship’s name, port of
origin, size and draft, and more, over
VHF frequencies 161.975 megahertz
and 162.025 MHz. This information is
BY LENNY RUDOW
Attention, anglers: A perk of having
AIS aboard is the ability to know where
commercial fishing vessels are – before
you even leave the dock.