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VOL. 11 NO. 11
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How AIS can help you

Are Automatic Identification System electronics right for you?

How AIS can help you

A relatively new electronics system called AIS (Automatic Identification System) can make your boating safer and more fun. Consider the following situation:

You have an AIS system on your boat. You are on watch, 20 miles off the coast, boating in hazy conditions. An AIS alarm sounds on your chart plotter. You immediately scan the horizon and see nothing.

Upon returning to your AIS display, you see a target 5 miles ahead traveling at 23 knots and heading toward you. The AIS information data box shows that you are 10 minutes to the closest point of approach of Coastal Challenger, a 600-foot cargo vessel. Using the MMSI number supplied by your AIS, you make a Digital Selective Calling radio call to the vessel. The ship’s officer says he sees you on his AIS and radar. You agree to both turn to starboard 5 degrees. Within a few seconds, your chart plotter shows that the ship’s relative headings have changed, and you’re no longer on a collision course.

Now imagine you don’t have AIS. When would you have spotted the ship? In haze, visibility is between 1 and 3 miles.

Suppose you see the vessel at 2 miles away and take 30 seconds to determine you’re on a collision course. You now have three and a half minutes to avoid the collision. If conditions are worse and you spot Coastal Challenger at a half-mile, that leaves you less than a minute to act. In fog, you might not see the ship at all. Hopefully its radar will see you. How strong is your boat’s radar signature? If you have an AIS transponder, they will see you, and you will see them.

You can learn more about AIS, how it works and whether it’s a good fit for you by taking United States Power Squadrons online seminar AIS Electronics for Boaters: See and Be Seen on the Water for the introductory price of $15. Click here to sign up today, using the promo code AIS15.
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