AIS Station Owners – making a difference

MarineTraffic began back in 2007 with just 20 AIS stations in the Aegean. Ten years later, we now operate over 3500 terrestrial AIS stations globally and this number is increasing by the day as we continue to improve our global coverage. MarineTraffic currently tracks hundreds of thousands of vessels globally, combining satellite data with a vast network of terrestrial stations. Most of our terrestrial AIS stations are operated by volunteers who work in partnership with MarineTraffic.

What does it take to be a MarineTraffic AIS station volunteer? We spoke with Joanne Crack who is a relative newcomer to the team, she has been an AIS station owner for around a year but has been using MarineTraffic for quite some time. Unlike most of our station owners, she does not have a background in radio technology, but with her home situated on the banks of the St Lawrence River in Canada, she was in a great location to host an antenna.

Joanne initially discovered MarineTraffic as she tracks all the vessels travelling up and down the St Lawrence River on a daily basis, and then relays all the information back to her online community. She is extremely passionate about the shipping community, running a 4000 person strong Facebook group called The Prescott Anchor and is a huge advocate of MarineTraffic. Joanne had noticed that the AIS coverage in her area was somewhat limited and so she decided to contact MarineTraffic and last year applied to become an AIS station owner. 

“It was so easy to put the kit together and once the station was set up, I just made a call to MarineTraffic to confirm that the signal was working, which thankfully it was. Whenever I have tech issues, MarineTraffic are just a phone call away and always very happy to help and give advice,” said Joanne.

AIS Station Joanne
AIS Station owner Captain Joanne Crack.

Through her vessel tracking, Joanne will also seek out areas that are poorly covered by MarineTraffic and assists us in making more maritime data available in the public domain. Using her Facebook community she will try to find someone in that area who is willing to set up an AIS station. Recently she had noticed that nearby Wolfe Island was not all that well serviced and Joanne has since recruited one of her friends to become a fellow AIS station owner. AIS vessel data available in the area has since improved.

In contrast, Lance Ginner from the USA was one of our first station owners. He is an ex Lockheed Missiles and Space Company engineer and an amateur radio enthusiast. His interest lies in radio propagation rather than the maritime sector and he hosts three AIS sites in San Francisco: one high level station that covers the Pacific coast and two low level sites covering the San Francisco Bay area. The high level site at 2800 feet elevation near the coastline, receives AIS signals out to 1500 nautical miles when the conditions are right.

One of the perks of being an AIS station owner is that you receive a free plan in return for hosting a station. Station owners therefore have access to superior AIS data and can also track how their signals are performing compared to others. MarineTraffic will often host competitions which help to encourage the sense of community among station owners.

“Working with the folks at MarineTraffic has been a joy. They make you feel that you are a valued contributor and make it fun to participate in the various contests and promotions,” said Lance.

lance san fran ais station
Lance’s AIS Station in San Francisco.

They need to have a reliable power source and they need to be able to withstand the elements, often facing heavy rain and strong winds, fortunately he is able to see how his systems are performing from his MarineTraffic account. The MarineTraffic team in Athens are also very proactive in this respect and if there is no signal they will usually contact him within an hour to alert them and offer technical advice if needed.

If you are interested in improving the cover in your area, why not set up a new AIS receiving station and connect to the world’s most trusted tracking service. You can learn more here.