U.S. Coast Guard Announces Automatic Identification System (AIS) Operational in San Francisco

AIS is a shipboard broadcast system that acts as a continuous transponder, operating in the VHF radio maritime band. It allows ships to easily track, identify, and exchange pertinent navigation information such as vessel name, course, speed, and position from one another or ashore for collision avoidance, security and Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) reporting. The AIS system is a requirement of the 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) and is monitored locally by Coast Guard VTS San Francisco.

MTSA requires AIS to be installed and operational on commercial vessels on international voyages including:

- Tankers and cargo ships over 300 gross tons
- Passenger vessels over 150 gross tons
- Self-propelled vessels 65 feet or more in length

In addition, MTSA requires AIS to be installed and operational on commercial vessels that use VTS including:

- Self-propelled vessels of 65 feet or more in length, engaged in commercial service (including fishing)
- Towing vessels of 26 feet or more in length and more than 600 horsepower
- Vessels of 100 gross tons or more carrying one or more passengers for hire
- Passenger vessels certificated to carry 50 or more passengers for hire

Over the past year, Coast Guard Marine Safety Inspectors have been ensuring that required vessels under MTSA have installed AIS in preparation for the December 31st system implementation. Vessels failing to comply with AIS Regulations by December 31st may be subject to civil penalty or be restricted from navigating within the San Francisco Bay area. The AIS system will improve communication, information exchange, and Maritime Domain Awareness, resulting in a safer and more secure marine transportation system.