We have got together with MarineTraffic to explore the different factors that need to be considered when choosing an AIS provider. Now AIS isn’t a mandatory carriage requirement across the world, however the prudent yachties and boaters in our waters will be transmitting and receiving AIS when they leave the comforts of their safe home port.

First things first, what is AIS? The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is an automatic tracking system that uses transponders fitted to vessels in order to send out signals and receive signals about vessel movements. The vessel’s identification, name position, course and speed are displayed on an electronic chart once the signals are sent over VHF radio signals. Some larger vessels have S-AIS capabilities, which is the same as AIS with the slight exception that the signals are sent via satellites to extend AIS capabilities further than the normal 4NM range of the VHF restricted AIS.

Whilst you’re on the water, AIS will help you with maintaining your ColReg requirements to keep a lookout at all possible times. When fog descends over your cruising area, your AIS will show you exactly where the vessels in your surroundings are and whether or not they pose a risk to your safe navigation.

What is their range of AIS coverage?

There are certain areas around the world where AIS coverage might differ. You should know whether the provider’s network covers the area you want to monitor.

“Checking the provider’s global coverage is crucial in ensuring you have sufficient data in your areas of interest. Combining positions received by both a Terrestrial AIS network as well as by satellite to ensure you have the greatest visibility and most valuable intelligence,” explains Conor Whitehouse, Inside Sales Manager.

How often do I get position updates?

Time intervals and delays impact the availability of the data. Ask about the uptime of data and when you get the latest position of your vessel. “The update frequency of the incoming data also depends on whether the AIS signal can be picked up by an AIS-receiving station or not.”, Conor says.

So, make sure you know how often you get position updates and make sure this is in line with your requirements.

How clean is the data?

AIS systems receive vast amounts of raw data every day. The platform should be able to transform this data into actionable and easy to use information and display it in the most comprehensive way. “It’s all about cleaning up data to make sense of all this information and extracting the greatest possible value.” says Dimitris Sousoudis, Senior Sales Executive.

Even if you haven’t wondered before how big data is made simple, you should make sure the provider has the right techniques and people in place to process it and offer you data of the highest quality.

Can I get a demonstration of the platform?

Being able to easily use the data through the platform is essential. According to Dimitris, “the platform you choose should have a user-friendly interface so you can instantly find the information you are looking for.” He also believes it is important to consider the flexibility and range of services offered, either through APIs or online tools.

Will I have ongoing support?

Knowing the level of support available also plays a key role, says Joseph Tan, Regional Sales Manager (APAC). You want to know that you have a dedicated and experienced customer support team on hand to guide you through the system and be there to resolve any issues you encounter. Consider the advantages of choosing a provider with a global presence, and the impact this will have on the time it takes to get an answer back if you have a question or problem. “Having worldwide offices means covering different time zones and customers can always have someone to help them,” Joseph adds.

Is it a trusted AIS service provider?

This is another key question you will want to answer prior to signing on the dotted line. Although you won’t find AIS providers reviewed on Amazon, you can get an understanding of their reliability by looking at what organisations are partnered with them or are already using their services. Providers working with key maritime organisations are likely to be far more reliable than those that are not.

“The number of AIS-receiving stations along with the amount of data received can be determining factors when choosing an AIS provider. The variety of industries addressed by the provider is also a key indicator of the quality of services you are going to get.” Joseph highlights.

As the shipping industry continues to evolve, so does AIS technology. New ways of processing and enriching data are being developed all the time, helping businesses access more accurate and more valuable information. By investing in an AIS provider that actively updates and grows its services, you will be choosing a partner that will be best placed to help your business succeed.

This helpful insight was brought to you by in conjunction with Marine Traffic