The U.S. Coast Guard published a news release announcing that it is expanding Automatic Identification System (AIS) requirements to include additional commercial vessels.

The change, which applies to U.S.-flag and foreign-flag vessels that are 300 gross tons or less, went into effect this month.

Information on the AIS requirements and vessels affected can be found in the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Register Notice from January 30, 2015

A boarding team from the Coast Guard Cutter Acushnet terminated the voyage of two fishing vessels for safety violations during a boarding in the Gulf of Alaska, September 2015 - Image: USCG

Most commercial vessels operating on American waterways are required to have AIS, a navigation safety communications system designed to mitigate collisions and enhance maritime situational awareness.

The International Maritime Organization adopted the use of AIS for ocean-going vessels in 2000, and the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 mandated AIS usage for most commercial vessels operating on the U.S. navigable waters.

All AIS users must abide by certain Coast Guard regulations published January 2015 regarding its operation and programming.

For AIS is to be as effective as it was designed to be, it is imperative that all AIS users keep it in proper operating condition and up-to-date with vessels particulars,” said Jorge Arroyo, the senior civilian in the Coast Guard’s Navigation Technology and Risk Management Division who has been involved with AIS technology since its inception.

Arroyo encourages mariners “to download our AIS Encoding Guide for assistance with the proper operation and programming.”
AIS increases situational awareness across the U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS), the vital economic arteries that enable the movement of $8.7 billion worth of goods and commodities every day.

Cmdr. John M. Stone, the chief of the Coast Guard Navigation Technology and Risk Management Division, said AIS can also be used to augment the nation’s Aids to Navigation system by extending the effective range of buoys, beacons, ranges and sound signals.
Stone said the Coast Guard is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Ocean Services to add Physical Oceanographic Real-time System (NOAA PORTS) meteorological and hydrological information into the Coast Guard’s AIS transmissions.
“Mariners will be able to receive real-time weather and tidal information,” said Stone. “We are also pursuing an initiative to augment our voice Broadcast Notice to Mariners transmissions by providing this vital Marine Safety Information via AIS, thus digitally to shipborne information systems.”

Part of the U.S. Government’s Cabinet-level, intra-departmental Committee for Marine Transportation Systems (CMTS) vision for the Future of Navigation, these AIS initiatives are the first steps in determining ways to leverage technology to better provide ATON and marine safety information to the mariner.

“AIS broadcasts increase mariner situational awareness and can enhance the safety on our nation’s waterways,” said Stone, who previously commanded the Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin-based Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay, a 140-foot icebreaking tug with 120-foot barge combination that maintains Aids to Navigation on the Great Lakes.

For more information on the new requirements that apply to all AIS users, the AIS Encoding Guide, and the U.S. AIS Network, visit the Coast Guard Navigation Center (NAVCEN) website at

Source: Coast Guard Maritime Commons