Australia - misuse of Automatic Identification System (AIS)

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is strongly advising ship managers, ship masters and watch-keepers to ensure that their ships use the Short Safety Related Message (SSRM) functionality of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) for safety of navigation purposes only.  

AMSA's Marine Notice 12/2005 draws attention to growing evidence of the use of SSRM for purposes other than the safety of navigation. There have been numerous reported instances of the use of this feature for general communication between ships and between ships and shore.  

IMO guidance for on-board operational use of AIS clearly states that the content of these messages should be relevant to the safety of navigation (e.g. sighting of an iceberg or a buoy not on station). In particular, care must be taken to avoid relying on such messages when a close quarters situation is developing. There is no guarantee that receiving vessels will be able to readily display them. 

When used, such messages should be kept as short as possible. Although the system allows up to 162 characters of text per message, shorter messages will find free space for transmission more easily. Further, longer messages will increase the load on the VHF data link, thereby potentially compromising the operation of AIS. 

Mariners are also reminded that the SSRM is only an additional means of broadcasting Maritime Safety Information (MSI). Whilst their importance should not be underestimated, the use of such messages does not remove the requirements for promulgation of MSI under the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). 

During a port state control inspection, AMSA surveyors may ask ship masters and watch-keepers to demonstrate their understanding of SSRM and its intended use. 

Source: GAC Hot Port News 

Contact:Gunnar A. Knudsen or Howard Snaith