Cover your Area

Why cover my Area?

  • To make vessel traffic information for your area available to the world!
  • To be part of a very important community that provides valuable information to millions of people and many research applications.
  • To receive a free subscription for the MarineTraffic online services (contributors receive free Pro or Premium plans, depending on the performance of their station).
  • To put a live map of your area, showing all vessel movements, on your own web site!
  • To experiment with antennas, area coverage and ship watching if ships and/or amateur radio excite you as much as they excite us.

Am I located in a proper area?

Any sea or inland waters area in the world can be covered and shown on the real-time map. If you are located near an uncovered sea area (up to 10 miles from sea or more if at a high altitude), near a harbor or on top of a mountain (!) and you have a computer and any Internet connection always online, then you may start installing your AIS station.

The most important factors (but not mandatory) for a good reception is the elevation (height from sea level – the higher the better) of your location and the clear view to the horizon, without obstacles.

What equipment and software do I need?

A typical base AIS station is shown on the picture above. Obtain an AIS receiver, connect it to your PC and to an external VHF antenna and send the collected data through your Internet connection. In detail:

  1. You need an AIS receiver.

    You may buy one from a local marine electronics shop or you may order one from an online shop. In case you are located in an area which is not already covered by MarineTraffic we will be pleased to provide an AIS Receiver for free.

    The following devices (with serial and/or USB output) have been used by several contributors in our network of AIS stations and can be easily found in many online stores:

    If you are not sure whether your location is suitable for AIS data reception and thus you do not want to buy a device, we can lend you an AIS receiver unit, to try it. You will have to return it to us within one month.

  2. You need a VHF antenna.

    Any marine VHF antenna is suitable for AIS reception. A 5/8 type antenna seems to be better for a base station (see 1st picture). For a little better results you may get an high-gain VHF antenna (e.g. a 3 x 5/8 aerial) or an antenna specially designed for AIS, such as the "Shakespeare 6396-ais" or the DPDP AIS antenna. Install the antenna at the highest possible point of your building.

    If you feel you can build your own handcrafted antenna, then you have many better options. Since in most cases the sea is not located around us but towards one direction, it is a very good idea to construct a directional (Yagi) antenna pointing to the sea (see 2nd picture). You may also try a custom made "Collinear" AIS antenna.

    A 5/8 VHF Antenna
    An array of two Yagi AIS antennas
  3. You need a cable and the relevant connectors to connect the antenna with the receiver. The best choice for this cable is the RG-213 type. If the distance is shorter than 5 meters you may also use the cheaper RG-58 type. In any case, the length of the antenna cable must be kept as short as possible. You will also need a serial cable (a common RS-232 serial connection cable) to connect the AIS receiver with the computer. We have successfully tested a 15-meter serial cable, so we were able to place the receiver very close to the antenna, while the PC was 2 floors lower.

  4. You need a software

    You need to download a simple software for processing and uploading data to the central database.

    We provide a simple windows-based service program that runs on the background or in the foreground if you wish to keep an eye on it. It requires the existence of the Microsoft .NET 2.0 framework (if you do not have it already, you will be prompted to download it during the software installation).

    Download the "AIS Logger" Software (zip file, about 0.3 MB)

    Installation Notes:Run the installation package AisServiceSetup.msi and follow the steps until the end. The software requires the Microsoft .NET framework, which will be downloaded during the installation if you do not already have it. 
    A windows service will be installed (named AIS Logger). Locate the service in (Right click) My Computer --> Manage --> Services. Configure the service to start Automatically and start the service. If you wish to see the AIS data collected and processed, check the option 'Allow service to interact with the desktop' at the 'Log on' tab, before starting the service (if you do so, please note that the program will stop when you log-off from windows). 
    In order to configure AISlogger (COM port used, destination IP and port, etc.), please locate the folder where the software is installed (normally C:\Program Files\DPSD\AisServiceSetup). Open the file named aisclient.exe.config with a text editor (notepad or wordpad). Locate the settings for ‘comport’, ‘udpport1’, etc. and change the values as necessary.

    Alternatively, you may use one of the following programs:

    • AIS Dispatcher (Thanks to 'AIS Hub' - Just extract the contents of the 'zip' and run program. - linux version also available)
    • Shipplotter (requires registration fee)

    That’s all! Start seeing vessels in your area! Ask us to put in our site a direct link to your area.

Can I avoid using a computer?

Yes! and this is the simplest and most robust solution, since you will not have to keep a PC and a software running. You will be also able to place the receiver very close to the antenna, even if the network port is 100 meters away. In order to process and send us your collected data without using a computer, you may use a receiver with an 'Ethernet' interface, which connects directly to the network. The following receivers have an embedded Ethernet interface:

Alternatively, if your receiver has a serial port, then you may use a serial-to-ethernet converter that collects the data from the serial port of the AIS receiver and sends them directly to our server. In both cases, it is not necessary to use a computer and the "AIS Logger" software to send the collected data to the central server.

We have successfully tested the following serial-to-ethernet converters:

The converter must be configured to send the data directly to the address '5.9.207.224', port 5321 (UDP or TCP). Please contact us if you need further support on this.

I am already using Shipplotter software. How can I contribute?

If you have already a receiving station and you are using the ShipPlotter software to process and publish your data, then you may easily send us your data without interrupting at all your current setup. Just configure the ShipPlotter to additionally send the data to our server. Go to 'I/O settings' and locate the 'UDP peer-to-peer output section'. Enable the output to Remote IP '5.9.207.224', Remote port 5321. That's all.

The same settings may apply to many other chart-plotter programs capable to process AIS messages.

I already have a wideband or a VHF receiver. Can I use it to collect AIS data?

If you already have a wideband receiver or a marine VHF radiotelephone, it is possible to use it to collect AIS data and send them to the central server, without buying a specialized AIS receiver. You have to follow the steps below:

  • Tune your receiver at one of the frequencies 161,975 MHz or 162,025 MHz (with FM modulation) or if you operate a VHF radiotelephone, tune it at channel 87. If there is AIS signal reception, you will hear a ‘noise’ repeated at very short periods.
  • Connect the discriminator output of your receiver to the input (line-in or microphone) of your computer (for more information on discriminator output of receivers see http://www.discriminator.nl).
  • Install the software AIS_Monitor in your computer from here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aismon/
  • Run the AISmon program, select the sound card of your PC and configure the UDP data output to 5.9.207.224:5351. See the ships you are receiving immediately on the real-time map!

How to configure my AIS receiver and my software?

See the configuration guides below for some common AIS installations. If further support is required, you could give us secure remote access to your computer using TeamViewer.

I wish to share my data with other services as well

Most receivers and converters are not able to send your data to multiple destinations, but we can do it for you. If you wish to forward your raw AIS data feed to one of your own systems or to share the data with other services, except MarineTraffic, we can forward your data to any requested destination. All we need is the destination IP address, port number and protocol (TCP or UDP).

Watch the coverage and reception statistics of your station

You may register your AIS station in the Stations List and thus reserve a unique ID for your data. Ship positions coming from your station will be distinguished by a unique ID (a number appearing next to the word 'Received()' within the info window of a ship).

You will be then able to watch daily and long-term statistics on signal propagation, number of vessels received, as well as a coverage map. See an example here: Reception Statistics and Coverage Map of Station No.2

How much will it cost me?

If you decide to buy your own AIS receiver, price varies from EUR 150 to 500. You will have to spend no more than EUR 80 for the antenna and the cables. We assume also that you already have an Internet connection and a PC in case you are using an AIS receiver with serial interface (anything with windows 2000, XP, Vista, with more than 256MB of RAM would be fine). In many cases (e.g. uncovered areas, areas of special interest, installations on top of mountains, etc.) we will provide an AIS receiver free of charge.

Get an AIS receiver for Free!

My ship already has an AIS transponder. Can I use it to collect and send AIS data?

Yes, this is possible if your vessel has a satellite Internet connection. This would be a very interesting idea as it would enable long-range coverage in every sea route of the world! AIS transponders already installed on most vessels can be used as ‘mobile’ AIS receiving stations. These stations collect and export AIS information about the vessel’s own positions and about all the nearby ships.

If your vessel has a satellite Internet connection onboard, then the collected signals can be easily sent to our central server, with no additional cost or equipment. It would be therefore possible to see vessels on the real-time map, not only near shores but anywhere in the world. For example, a ship crossing the Atlantic will be constantly transmitting its own positions and all positions of ships sailing around it (in a range of 30-40 n.miles) in every location, even where no shore reception is possible.

Here are some basic instructions to implement the 'onboard' AIS data collection:

  1. The prerequisite to implement this solution is a PC with an Internet connection onboard.
  2. The program 'AIS Logger' must be installed in the PC, as described here. Alternatively, the 'AIS Dispatcher' program may be used, which has the possibility to reduce the bandwidth used.
  3. The serial output of the AIS transponder of your vessel must be connected to the serial port of the PC. Since the cabling of the serial connection depends on the type of your AIS transponder, please refer to its installation manual for more information. Some examples: Proposed cabling for AIS transponders Furuno FA-100 and FA-150
    Proposed cabling for AIS transponder Samyung SI30

I do not have an AIS device, but I can report positions by other means

There may be other ways to collect the position of vessels, except AIS.

For example, a small vessel may have a GPS device, reporting positions to other devices on-board, using NMEA connection. A PC can collect this NMEA data through its serial port and send it to our server. Collection of data can be even off-line and transfer to the server will take place whenever a network is available.

You may use the mAIS application on your smart phone (iPhone/iPad or Android) on board to report the position of your vessel directly to MarineTraffic

A shipping company may use a proprietary system to follow its fleet. Even if the reporting is not in real-time but only sporadical, a vessel's last known position is still a valuable information. Publishing this information through MarineTraffic could be possible.

We can collect and process ships positions by any automated method and in any format, including but not limited to:

  • By a standardized email message sent to us, containing the vessel's position
  • By accessing a web service on our server where the position information is entered
  • By letting our service accessing your data
  • By sending us a file containing a batch of previously recorded data, in text, csv, xls, xml, json or other formats
  • By sending us the NMEA data feed of your boat, which may also include other valuable data, such as wind speed and direction, sea depth, water temperature, etc.

There are at least 5 different methods for reporting your own position to MarineTraffic. Read more....

How much Bandwidth will the AIS data feed consume?

AIS messages are very small (~50 bytes for each position report) and the bandwidth needed is just a small fraction of any ADSL or dial-up line. However a lot of data can be accumulated over time, especially in high-traffic areas. If you are using an on-board satellite connection, bandwidth may be limited.

Here is a rough estimation:
Say there are 30 vessels in your range.
Each vessel transmits its position 10 times per minute on average.
Each message is about 50 bytes long.
That means that there is a transmission of 30*10*50*60 = 0.9 Mbytes per hour or 2Kbps.

If you require to reduce the data transmitted over the Internet you may use the program 'AIS Dispatcher' as described earlier. This program can be configured to 'downsample' the rate of transmitted messages. For example, an interval of 60 seconds means that only one message for each vessel will be transmitted within one minute. A 2-3 minute interval would be sufficient for our application and it would dramatically decrease the bandwidth used.

Need Help?

We can support you to build your AIS station. Do not hesitate to contact us at help.marinetraffic.com. You may also find an answer in the Frequently Asked Questions.