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Baltic AIS trial project (AISBALTIC)

STATUS - on-going

The project is under the Tedim umbrella and is a part of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan. The aim of the project is to enhance the quality of information exchanged between vessel traffic and authorities by testing the technical usability of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) binary messages and evaluating the information content of the different messages.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Finnish Maritime Administration, Estonian Maritime Administration, Swedish Maritime Administration, The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and Finnish Coast Guard launched a project named the ‘Baltic AIS trial’ (AISBALTIC) in May 2007.

Maritime safety, security and environmental authorities monitor vessel traffic and provide information and services to vessels. Today AIS is one of the most significant information sources for these activities. The AISBALTIC project originates from the need to reduce workload caused on ships and authorities by various demands for reporting and to improve quality and reliability of information available. This can be achieved by reducing verbal communication i.e. VHF radio traffic and minimising the requirement of providing the same information time and time again to different systems. While doing this, the availability of the specific information needed by maritime safety and environmental authorities to enhance safety, security and protection of the environment can also be improved.

In the AISBALTIC project, the views of the relevant authorities in Baltic Sea countries on needs for amending AIS messages were gathered and refined in two expert workshops, the ThinkTank meetings and two Internet based ThinkTank sessions. Representatives from Estonia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), European Commission and HELCOM participated in the work, representing maritime safety, search and rescue, environment, pollution preventing and combating as well as maritime security authorities.

As a result, the participants identified 153 information items that could facilitate the execution of the tasks and responsibilities of the authorities if they were available through AIS. Many of the items are currently part of AIS, but new ones were also found. The majority of the participants found 92 of the information items to be important to be found in AIS or at least useful as supporting information. The participants agreed that e.g. the following amendments to the current AIS information content would be motivated:

  • Changes in reporting of dangerous cargo (increased information content to even perhaps meet the requirements of Hazmat Directive).
  • Changes to meteorological and hydrological information binary message application to enhance its usability (several locations for reporting, too much information in one message, etc.).
  • Amendments off ship type definition to better meet the needs of the users.
  • A new binary message for multi-use communication of area information from shore to ship (this message could be used e.g. to indicate an area to be avoided, SAR operation area or an area where other deviating procedures apply). This message may also be used for communication of route information from shore to ship e.g. recommended routes, recommended tracks through ice, waypoints to anchorage, etc.
  • Extension of “Extended Ship Static and Voyage Related Data” binary message application (IMO SN/Circ.236), that only contains air draught, to include more widely needed data.

The comprehensive use of LOCODEs (United Nations Code for Trade and Transport Locations) in the various AIS messages was seen necessary. It was considered that the use of LOCODEs on board ships should be made mandatory. It was noted that the on board usability of a majority of the AIS information is highly dependent on the availability of ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System).

In parallel with the meetings, full-scale transmission tests of the IMO defined binary message applications were conducted between GOFREP Traffic Centre in Helsinki (Helsinki Traffic) and ships to analyse the technical usability of binary messages. Five ships from TallinkSilja, Neste Shipping and the Finnish Coast Guard participated in the tests. The tests showed the usefulness of the binary messages and the potential they provide for future.

The observations and conclusions made during the AISBALTIC project are reported to IALA and IMO in 2008. In addition, as a result of the  project, a proposal for improved information content of AIS messages and demonstrated the needs for amendments is to be submitted to IMO in 2009 as a common view of the Baltic Sea countries.

More information on the AISBALTIC project:

Markus Porthin, VTT, firstname.surname@vtt.fi
Sanna Sonninen, FMA, firstname.surname@fma.fi
Rolf Bäckström, FMA, firstname.surname@fma.fi

 


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