AIS is an automatic system of tracking the ships on high seas. Shipping, has been known for many centuries as a formidable industry in itself and as a crucial means of propagating many other trades and industries. This mode of transport is one of the most dangerous as well. Therefore shipping industry calls for improved safety standards. Vessel traffic systems (VTS) uses AIS for identifying the vessels, exchanging data/ information and taking due precaution in case the vessel appears to be indulging in some suspicious activities. AIS is one of the most reliable standards adopted by the International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency under the aegis of United Nations. IMO is responsible for improving maritime safety and prevent pollution from ships. During the times of fog or at night on the high seas, AIS helps in easily identifying the ships from a safe distance and thus avoids any possible accident. Though ships are also equipped with radar for identifying and exchanging signals during navigation, but there happen to be some zones known as blind arcs or shadows, where AIS proves to be very helpful. Generally a vessel equipped with AIS will display the information relating to;
Within the usual radio range of 15-20 nautical miles, the Automatic Identification System can process up-to 4000 reports per minute (Desvignes et al, 2002). With the help of such information AIS can help in collision avoidance, safe navigation, ships routing, automatic reporting, search and rescue operations, security screening, and traffic analysis. To make all these things possible AIS facilitates (Capt McCabe, 2007):
Ship to ship identification and information exchange: This helps in taking evasive actions, collision avoidance etc/
Ship to shore identification and information exchange: This helps in taking adequate steps for anchoring the ship. The ship sizes, type of material on board the ship requiring delicate handling etc are all taken care of during such information exchange.
Short safety related messages (SSRM)L During the times of emergency brief messages about the difficult state of the ship can be broadcast to nearby shores and ships.
Binary messages (texts): Binary text message for particular recipients can also be transmitted.
Aids to navigation functions: Existing AIS could provide navigational aid in the form of information about the nearby vessels, places etc.
Meteorological and hydrological information: To certain extent the expert system can also forewarn the ship about the weather conditions ahead, so that adequate precaution can be taken.
Differential GNSS services: It makes use of differential navigation techniques combined with GLONASS and GPS, collectively referred to as Global Navigation Satellite Service (GNSS).
Search and rescue