AIS – Automatic Identification System Class-B data is being used by commercial vessels for ship tracking. For people that are not familiar with the technology, Class “B” is an AIS system which is designed for use by shippers to track their vessels and is consistent with the Class “A” AIS units of large vessels but with limited features.
One provision of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), IMO and other authority bodies have covered in the AIS spec is the ability for SOLAS classed ships to filter out Class “B” goals for vessel tracking services. The main reasoning is if a big percentage of shippers succeed to adopt this technology then radar and ECIDS screens are going to become too cluttered to see important goals. According to the manual how to operate and manage with ship tracking, it seems that Furuno’s latest radar units allow Class “B” goals to be slept (the AIS goal is replaced with a less pronounced icon) or removed from the Display and people may also prevent Class “B” goals from sounding the unit’s CPA warning alarm.
What does this mean for professional sailors? A quick studey shows that most sailors do not understand the full potential of AIS Class “B” filtering settings and, therefore, they leave these settings untouched. Most of people will agree that leaving settings not understanded alone is a good practice. And those people that understand the settings only use them in very busy harbors for vessel tracking.
It brings us to a word of prudence. While Class “B” AIS data may, and sometimes must, be suppressed in port it is really important technology that is going to help us avoid ships which venture offshore. Therefore deactivating the display of Class “B” AIS goals on your ECDIS and RADAR is an action which must be logged and a note need to be placed in your passage plan (or outlined next to the sea buoy on the chart) to remind all watchstanders to reactivate the setting once they have set out for sea which is going to be very useful and safety with this king of ship tracking.
One of the main lines is that each watchstander wants to avoid colliding with a ship – but mistakes may happen, and they happen without vessel tracking systems. As technology is still improving, so is going to sound watchstanding practices to ensure that navigation displays are sett-up properly. Until then, it is peoples’ responsibility to realize their equipment, understand it’s capabilities and potential shortcomings, and create vessel specific procedures to ensure it is set up really properly…. both in port and at sea, and to understand how important is Class “B” AIS vessel tracking system.