New guidance on AIS use in pirate risk areas

Regulation V/19 of the SOLAS Convention sets out navigational equipment to be carried on board ships, according to ship type.  Under the regulation, ships fitted with AIS shall maintain AIS in operation at all times except where international agreements, rules or standards provide for the protection of navigational information.

IMO Resolution A.917(22), Guidelines for the onboard operational use of shipborne automatic identification systems (AIS), states that "if the master believes that the continual operation of AIS might compromise the safety or security of his/her ship, the AIS may be switched off.  This might be the case in sea areas where pirates and armed robbers are known to operate.  Actions of this nature should always be recorded in the ship's logbook together with the reason for doing so."

The advice from EUNAVFOR and NATO in accordance with IMO Resolution A.917(22) and as articulated in BMP3 paragraph 7.5 states "the Master has the discretion to switch off the AIS if he believes its use increases the ship's vulnerability" and until now it has been recommended that AIS transmission within the Gulf of Aden be left on with restrictions, and outside the Gulf of Aden in other parts of the High Risk Area be turned off completely.

In order that Counter Piracy Naval Operations have the required data from AIS transmissions to track real time positions of merchant ships, thus enabling them to mitigate risk of piracy to merchant shipping, the advice has been revised.

The NEW recommendation is to leave AIS transmitting across the entire High Risk Area as set out in BMP3.  AIS transmission should continue to be restricted to ship's identity, position, course, speed, navigational status and safety-related information.  As noted, this is a change to the previous guidance which recommended that AIS be left on only in the Gulf of Aden.   The decision on AIS policy remains at the discretion of the Master, however, if it is switched off during transit, it should be activated immediately at the time of an attack.

April 6, 2011