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Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a tracking system that allows ships to exchange information with each other and shore-based stations. The system enables ships to detect other vessels in the vicinity and helps avoid collisions. AIS is mandatory for all ships over 300 gross tons engaged in international voyages, but many shipowners choose to install AIS even if their vessel is smaller. If you are planning to buy an AIS system, here is a buying guide to help you make the right choice.

Types of AIS

There are two categories of AIS: Class A and Class B. Class A AIS is a more advanced system that provides detailed information about the vessel, including its name, call sign, speed, course, destination, and cargo. Class A AIS is mandatory for larger ships, but it is also used by smaller vessels that want to have more detailed information about their surroundings. Class B AIS is a simpler and less expensive system that provides basic information about the vessel, such as its position, speed, and course. Class B AIS is suitable for smaller vessels that do not require detailed information.

AIS Range

The range of an AIS system depends on several factors, including the height of the antenna, the type of antenna, the terrain, and the weather conditions. The range of a Class A AIS system is typically between 20 and 40 nautical miles, while the range of a Class B AIS system is typically between 5 and 10 nautical miles. If you are operating in a busy shipping lane, you may want to choose a system with a longer range.

Power Supply

AIS systems require a power supply to operate. Some systems are designed to be powered by the ship’s electrical system, while others have their own battery or solar power source. You must make sure that your ship’s electrical system can handle the extra load if you select a system that needs a power source.


AIS systems are designed to be compatible with other systems, such as radar and electronic chart displays. If you plan to use your AIS system with other equipment, you will need to ensure that it is compatible.


The price of an AIS system varies depending on the type, range, power supply, and compatibility. Class A AIS systems are more expensive than Class B systems, and systems with longer ranges are more expensive than systems with shorter ranges. You should choose a system that fits your budget and meets your requirements.


AIS systems require installation by a qualified technician. The installation process can be complex, and it is essential to ensure that the system is installed correctly to ensure proper operation. Some systems come with installation instructions, while others require professional installation.

Manufacturer and Warranty

Choose a manufacturer with a good reputation for quality and reliability. Look for a manufacturer that offers a warranty for their products. The warranty should cover the system for a reasonable period and should provide for repair or replacement in case of defects.

Choosing an AIS system requires careful consideration of the type, range, power supply, compatibility, price, installation, and manufacturer. By following this buying guide, you can ensure that you choose the right AIS system for your vessel and operate safely in the open seas.


Related FAQs

AIS stands for Automatic Identification System. It is a tracking system that allows ships to exchange information about their position, speed, and course with other vessels and shore stations.


AIS’s primary purpose is to improve maritime navigation safety and efficiency. By providing real-time information on the location and movement of other vessels, AIS helps to prevent collisions and allows ships to navigate more efficiently.


AIS is mandatory for most commercial vessels over a specific size and passenger ships but not for smaller vessels. However, many smaller vessels choose to install AIS for safety and navigation purposes.


AIS uses VHF radio signals to transmit and receive information between vessels and shore stations. Each vessel has a unique identifier, which tracks its movement and provides information about its course and speed.


The benefits of AIS include improved safety, increased situational awareness, and more efficient navigation. AIS also enables search and rescue operations to locate vessels in distress more quickly.


When buying an AIS system, look for features like range, accuracy, and reliability. Also, consider whether the system is compatible with other navigation equipment on your vessel.


The choice between a Class A and Class B AIS system depends on the type and size of your vessel. Class A systems are required for larger commercial vessels, while Class B systems are suitable for smaller vessels.


A qualified marine electronics technician can install AIS systems. The installation process typically involves mounting the system’s antenna and connecting it to your vessel’s power supply and navigation equipment.


The cost of an AIS system depends on the type and features of the system. Class A systems are typically more expensive than Class B systems. Additional costs may include installation fees and annual licensing fees.


Many brands of AIS systems are on the market, and the choice depends on your specific needs and preferences. Some recommended brands include Garmin, Raymarine, and Furuno. When choosing a brand, consider factors like reliability, customer support, and product features.


The Automatic Identification System (AIS) functions to identify and track vessels in real-time, providing information on their position, speed, course, and other relevant data to improve the safety and effectiveness of vessel traffic in the maritime industry. It operates on VHF radio frequencies and uses GPS technology and shipboard sensors.


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