Automatic Identification System (AIS) Presents Problems of Security

IMO Secretary-General Ifthimios Mitropoulos said that the U.N. adopted a resolution in November, 2003 that would allow masters to switch off the AIS in specific areas where attack by pirates or terrorist was imminent.

AIS information is public domain, and a venture by U.K. and Dutch companies has come up with the presentation of AIS information and comprehensive vessel information online. Anyone anywhere can access the information.

The International Chamber of Shipping said that it was concerned that people of ill-will could use the detailed information to identify vessel targets. IMO concurs, saying that AIS is a broadcasting device and that the information is available without discrimination.

In November, 2003, IMO issued guidelines for onboard operational use of AIS: "AIS should always be in operation when ships are underway or at anchor. If the master believes that the continual operation of AIS might compromise the safety or security of their ship, the AIS may be switched off. This might be a case in which pirates or armed robbers are known to operate."