The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a short range coastal tracking system currently used on ships to provide identification and position information.
Ships transmit AIS messages, which are then collected by other vessels and shore-stations. However, shore-based coverage is limited to about 40 nautical miles from the coast. To extend the coverage beyond this limit and towards the high seas without any change in ships’ equipment, one solution is to use satellite detection of AIS signals. With this solution, AIS messages are collected from space, allowing a continuous tracking of the participating ships beyond the coastal region, with the possibility of worldwide coverage.
Led by the prime contractor CLS (Collecte Localisation satellites), with exactEarth Europe, KSAT/FFI and LuxSpace as subcontractors, ESA demonstrated a service based on satellite-based AIS data complementing the terrestrial data collected by EMSA.
Space AIS data was collected during a nine-month period. About 250 “blue ships” were tracked worldwide, as well as all ships sailing in the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea (north Africa), and in the southern Atlantic approach to Europe (including Bay the of Biscay).
Customs authorities of EU Member States received a timely notification report before the arrival of a blue ship to an EU port. Knowing the actual vessel journey beyond the coastal region is important to Custom authorities.
EMSA initiated the Blue Belt pilot project to promote short sea shipping and assist EU customs authorities by providing them with additional information about ships, their journey and their cargoes within the EU.
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