“Proper function of the AIS is dependent on accurate vessel data entry, including entering the proper ship type code and the full length of a vessel and its tow. The accurate display of a vessel’s full length becomes particularly important in situations that prevent vessels from seeing each other until they are in very close proximity,” the USCG warned. “Given the wide variety of sizes and lengths of tows, and the heavy density of these types of vessels traveling on the country’s marine transportation system, accurate AIS input is vital to an operator’s ability to make informed navigational decisions.”
In order to minimize risk, the agency’s Directorate of Inspection and Compliance recommends that operators should:
– Use the Coast Guard’s AIS Encoding Guide to ensure that accurate and up-to-date information is entered into the AIS.
– For vessels towing ahead or alongside, use Ship Type 57 (not Ship Type 31) within the static data fields in order to broadcast the overall dimensions of the vessel and its tow.
– Ensure towing vessel officers have the training and resources to update AIS data when tow sizes change