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Gard News 182 -


Australian authorities notice a catalogue of mistakes in information given out by AIS.

In the 1950s, radar became widely available to and was used by merchant vessels. At the time, there were suggestions that the use of radar would make collisions a thing of the past. Presumably what was meant was the proper use of radar, because, since then, there have been numerous “radar-assisted” collisions. One of the first and probably the most famous was the collision off the US East Coast in 1956 of the passenger ship ANDREA DORIA with the STOCKHOLM. Some 50 people were killed, many more were injured and the ANDREA DORIA foundered as a result.

Since 2000, when the International Maritime Organization adopted new regulations concerning Automatic Identification Systems (AIS), there has been speculation as to whether this new technology would, inter alia, significantly reduce the number of collisions, or whether the problem would be repeated, with AIS contributing to, not preventing, collisions. The article on page 12 of Gard News issue No. 1661 set out the timetable for the introduction of AIS on the various types and sizes of merchant vessels. From this, it can be seen that almost all sea-going vessels will have had to be fitted with AIS no later than 1st July 2006.

As was explained in issue 166, AIS “are to provide the vessel’s identity, type, course, speed, navigational status and other safety-related information automatically to appropriately equipped shore stations, other vessels and aircraft.” The AIS should also receive such information. The theory sounds great, but in practice, as with almost all technology, the system is only as good as the information it is given. Unfortunately, it seems that not all seafarers are putting in the correct information.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which is well-known for its close attention to matters of maritime safety, has noticed a catalogue of mistakes. AMSA has felt it necessary to issue a safety notice, No. 13/2005, drawing the attention of seafarers to the incorrect information which it has found has been given out by AIS. AMSA lists three main areas of concern:

– Incorrect or incomplete basic information. This means that some seafarers are providing wrong information concerning the name of their ship, her call sign, her IMO number, etc.
– Incorrect or incomplete voyage information.
– Incorrect or incomplete dynamic information. This means information concerning the vessel’s speed, course, position, etc.

It goes without saying that any one of these failures is cause for concern. If a seafarer can not correctly supply the name of the vessel on which he/she is serving, other aspects of his/her performance may be called into question. Just as important, if not more so in the context of collisions, is a failure to supply correct/adequate information about the vessel’s movements. Incorrect information about a vessel’s speed or course will mean that another nearby vessel, using her AIS to obtain information about the vessel in question, will navigate on the basis of wrong information. Even though electronic technology should never be the sole method of collision avoidance, it is clear that the supply and receipt of incorrect AIS information significantly increases the risk of collision. Those on board the vessel in question, nearby vessels and shore stations will all be basing their decisions on incorrect information. This has implications not only in close-quarter situations, but also in relation to possible grounding or contact with a fixed or floating object.

Gard urges all members and clients to ensure that correct, adequate, information is supplied to each vessel’s AIS.

Remember: “garbage in, garbage out”.

1 “Automatic Identification Systems (AIS)”.


Gard News 182, May/July 2006

Any comments to this article can be e-mailed to the Gard News Editor.

Gard News is published quarterly by Gard AS, Arendal, Norway.