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Maritime Information

International Maritime Organization

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), headquartered in London, is a specialized agency of the United Nations which is responsible for measures to improve the safety and security of international shipping and to prevent marine pollution from ships. It also is involved in legal matters, including liability and compensation issues and the facilitation of international maritime traffic. It was established by means of a Convention adopted under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva on 17-March 1948 and met for the first time in January 1959. It currently has 165 Member States.

  • IMO Resolution MSC.74(69), Annex 3, RECOMMENDATION ON PERFORMANCE STANDARDS FOR AN UNIVERSAL SHIPBORNE AUTOMATIC IDENTIFICATION SYSTEMS (AIS). This standard defines the basic performance requirements for AIS equipment, and was used by International Telecommunications Union and International Electrotechnical Commission in developing technical and test standards.
  • IMO Resolution A.917(22) , GUIDELINES FOR THE ONBOARD OPERATIONAL USE OF SHIPBORNE AUTOMATIC IDENTIFICATION SYSTEMS (AIS). These 14 page guidelines have been developed to promote the safe and effective use of shipborne Automatic Identification Systems (AIS), in particular to inform the mariner about the operational use, limits and potential uses of AIS. Consequently, AIS should be operated taking into account these Guidelines.
  • IMO Resolution.347(91), RECOMMENDATION FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE AIS VHF DATA LINK. Which recommends that: any device which transmits on the radio channels allocated for AIS, should meet the appropriate requirements of Recommendation ITU-R M.1371;  that all such transmitting devices should be approved by the Administration; and, that Administrations should take the steps necessary to ensure the integrity of the radio channels used for AIS in their waters. Supersedes IMO Resolution MSC.140(76).
  • IMO Marine Safety Circular 1473, POLICY ON USE OF AIS AIDS TO NAVIGATION

  • IMO Safety of Navigation Circular 227, GUIDELINES FOR THE INSTALLATION OF A SHIPBORNE AUTOMATIC IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM (AIS). These 14 page guidelines, prepared by the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) and adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), contains guidelines for manufacturers, installers, yards, suppliers and ship surveyors. IMO Safety of Navigation Circular 245 amends these guidelines to recommend that AIS be connected through an uninterrupted power supply. Neither circular is intended to replace documentation supplied by the manufacturer. Note, in the United States, the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) Installation Standard 0400-3.10 may be relied upon in lieu of these IMO circulars. See ‘properly installed, operational’ at  33 CFR 164.01(a).
  • IMO Safety of Navigation Circular 244 provides guidance on the use of the UN/LOCODE [when on International voyages] in the Destination Field in AIS Messages.
  • IMO Safety of Navigation Circular 289, GUIDANCE ON THE USE OF AIS APPLICATION-SPECIFIC MESSAGES (ASM). A listing of ASMs used around the world can be found in the IALA-AISM ASM Collection.

International Association of Lighthouse Authorities

The International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) is a non-profit making international technical association, and a lead organization in the advancement, development, and, use of AIS. Established in 1957, it gathers together marine aids to navigation authorities, manufacturers and consultants from all parts of the world and offers them the opportunity to compare their experiences and achievements. Through the work of its Committees it develops common standards through publication of IALA Guidelines and Recommendations, such as AN OVERVIEW OF AIS and those listed below.

IALA Guidelines, provide detailed, in depth information on an aspect of a specific subject, indicating options, best practices and suggestions for implementation.
  • 1026, AIS as a VTS Tool
  • 1028, On the Universal Automatic Identification System (AIS) - Volume 1, Part I - Operations Issues
  • 1029, On the Universal Automatic Identification System (AIS) - Volume 1 Part II - Technical Issues
  • 1050, Monitoring & Management of AIS
  • 1062, AIS as an Aide to Navigation (AtoN)
  • 1082, An Overview of AIS
  • 1084, Authorisation of AIS AtoN
  • 1081, Virtual AtoN  
  • 1095, Implementation of Application-Specific Messages
  • 1098, Application of AIS AtoN on Buoys
 IALA Recommendations, provide direction to IALA members on uniform procedures and processes that will facilitate IALA objectives.
  • A-123, Shore-based AIS
  • A-124, The AIS Service
  • A-126, The Use of the AIS in Marine AtoN Services
  • O-143, On Virtual Aids to Navigation
  • V-125, AIS Symbology in VTS Centre

International Electrotechnical Commission

The International Electrotechnical Commission is the leading global organization that prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies. These serve as a basis for national standardization and as references when drafting international tenders and contracts. Through its members, the IEC promotes international cooperation on all questions of electrotechnical standardization and related matters, such as the assessment of conformity to standards, in the fields of electricity, electronics and related technologies.  The respective IEC standard that defines the certification test requirements for each type of AIS station is denoted at our ‘Type of AIS’ page.

International Telecommunications Union

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland is an international organization within the United Nations System where governments and the private sector coordinate global telecom networks and services. The Union was established last century as an impartial, international organization within which governments and the private sector could work together to coordinate the operation of telecommunication networks and services and advance the development of communications technology. While the organization remains relatively unknown to the general public, ITU's work over more than one hundred years has helped create a global communications network which now integrates a huge range of technologies, yet remains one of the most reliable man-made systems ever developed.
  • ITU-R Recommendation M.1371 series, TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS FOR A UNIVERSAL SHIPBORNE AUTOMATIC IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM USING TIME DIVISION MULTIPLE ACCESS IN THE MARITIME MOBILE BAND. The International Telecommunications Union Sector for Radiocommunications formally adopted this standard in August 2001.  This is the standard that defines in detail how the AIS works, and as such is the primary AIS standard.  It is available electronically at no charge from ITU.

U.S. Coast Guard Safety Alerts regarding AIS.