As of March 1, 2016, owners and operators of most U.S.-flag and foreign-flag commercial vessels operating in U.S. waters were required to install and use AIS. The new United States Coast Guard (USCG) AIS mandate affects a wide range of vessels, including certain categories of freight ships, research vessels, work boats, dredges, tugs, fishing boats, ferries and other passenger ships. These vessels are now required to install either a fully-certified USCG Class A or Class B AIS transceiver in order to operate legally within U.S. national waters.

On this site, you can find out whether this new mandate applies to your vessel, which products you need to comply with the regulations, the costs involved, and the safety and security benefits for you and global maritime transportation.

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Questions about the new USCG AIS mandate are answered here, along with general queries about AIS rules and regulations.

Please email us and we will be glad to answer any further questions.    Email: Marketing@acrartex.com



Q: What is the new US AIS mandate?

A: The US Coast Guard has developed regulations applicable to both US and foreign-flag vessels that require owners and operators of most commercial vessels operating in US navigable waters to be outfitted with an Automatic Identification System (AIS). These rules are part of domestic and international efforts to increase the security and safety of maritime transportation. Initial AIS rules became effective on July 1st, 2003 and were subsequently amended on January 30th, 2015 to require that certain categories of commercial vessels are outfitted with a USCG type-approved and properly installed operational AIS no later than March 1st, 2016. The mandate requires the use of AIS Class A devices on most vessels, but does also allow for the use of AIS Class B devices on certain vessels, such as fishing and small passenger vessels that operate outside US Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) Areas.

Q: Which vessels are affected?

A: Owners or operators affected include those who are an existing AIS user or who operate vessels including: commercial self-propelled vessels of 65 feet or more in length or, for towing vessels, 26 feet or more; passenger vessels certificated to carry more than 150 passengers; vessels that move or carry hazardous cargo; and vessels that engage in dredging in or near a commercial channel.

Q: Are fishing vessels subject to AIS carriage?

A: Commercial self-propelled fishing vessels of 65 feet or more in length are subject to AIS carriage requirements. Fishing industry vessels such as fishing processors, tenders, and other vessels, may use lower-cost AIS Class B units in lieu of Class A devices. However, NOAA Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) are not an acceptable substitute for AIS because they are not inter-operable or compatible.

Q: Are there alternatives to the rule for small businesses? 

A: There are no alternatives to this rule, however, many small business may meet the carriage requirement by purchasing a lower cost AIS Class B device in lieu of a Class A.

Q: Do AIS Class B devices meet current USCG AIS carriage requirements?

A: Yes, a small segment of mandatory AIS users can use a Coast Guard type-approved AIS Class B device in lieu of a Class A device. These include: vessels certified to carry less than 150 passengers but always operating outside a VTS area and never exceeding 14kts and over 65ft; fishing vessels over 65ft; vessels dredging away from a shipping channel or fairway; commercial non-passenger carrying vessels over 65ft always operating outside a VTS area under 14kts.

Q: What is the difference between Class A and Class B devices?

A: Class A transceivers are more expensive than Class B transceivers due to their higher level of functionality. They have a built-in display and a higher transmit power, plus transmissions are sent very frequently, every few seconds. In addition, information from a Class A transceiver will always be prioritized over information from a Class B transceiver if there is limited room on the AIS channel.

Class B devices are compatible with other AIS stations, but operate at a lower power and reporting interval than Class A transceivers. A chart plotter is required to display data when using a Class B device.

Q: Which AIS products can be used to comply with the mandate?

A: US AIS carriage requirements can only be met by USCG type-approved equipment. A listing of all USCG type-approved equipment can be found at the Coast Guard Maritime Information Exchange (CGMIX). Voluntary AIS users may install either a AIS Class A or B device, but, such device must be FCC certified for its use in the United States.

Q: Will it be necessary to have electronic navigational charts for use with the AIS?

A: The additional requirement that most commercial vessels operating in US navigable waters are equipped with and operate an electronic chart system (ECS) is in development. Until these regulations are finalized, AIS is not required to be displayed on an ECS or other external display system, although it is highly recommended. The full benefits of AIS are only achieved when it is fully integrated and displayed on other shipboard navigation systems.

Q: Is the Coast Guard broadcasting AIS Aids to Navigation Reports?

A: The USCG and other authorized agencies and organizations are transmitting AIS ATON Reports and marine safety information via AIS.  AIS AtoN can autonomously and at fixed intervals broadcast the name, position, dimensions, type, characteristics and status from or concerning an aid to navigation. 

Q: Are naval ships required to fit AIS?

A: No, but national administrations may require the installation of AIS on board naval vessels and many navies have outfitted their vessels with AIS. However, they may not always be transmitting AIS information (e.g. operating in a ‘receive only’ mode).