Class B AIS, ruminations
Word of ACR’s Nauticast B started an interesting, if sometimes fretful, conversation yesterday, and, whereas I’ve got the bully pit here (guest bloggers welcome), I’m going to exercise it. While the concerns about over-crowded AIS screens, Class B filters, and minimal big ship AIS plotting minded by minimal seamen all have truth to them—and should be part of every new AIS user’s education—I think their overall importance may be exaggerated. Here are some reasons why:
- While I’m sure that San Francisco Bay in heavy fog can be terrifying, in my experience the scariest contacts with shipping weren’t in crowded ports but out in the open ocean, where any bridge with half decent equipment and personnel will likely be monitoring Class B targets. Lord knows there are some dunderheads driving very, very large objects out there, but I do not buy the notion that a high percentage of commercial sailors are oblivious to small boats.
- This photo I took on Penobscot Bay illustrates another scenario. Shipping is light here—I’ve never seen two underway at the same time—but the traffic lane that runs down the bay crosses the route of almost every cruising boat going in or out of four active harbors. And it can get so foggy that…
well, people write about it.
This ship is being guided by a pilot, and pilots tend to be the best seamen on the planet, and they tend to care. (I was tickled to learn recently that at least one officer of the APA appreciates Panbo.)
- Now, while I have had ships on the Bay alter course for me (which felt grand), you could make a good argument that just a receiver would do the job. But aren’t we learning that Class B transponders will all be good dual channel receivers with GPS built in? And wouldn’t you like to be seen by boats, including other Class B type boats, that are watching? For instance, have you ever crossed Stellwagen Bank at night with a dozen trawlers doing loop-d-loops, sometimes driven by a guy who has no qualms about putting a multi-million candle power spotlight in your face? If and when the new regs go into effect, those boats will surely be using B to watch each other, and annoyances like me.
- Finally, haven’t we just gotten started with Class B and might it not move at an amazing rate? Bigger screens, better plotting graphics, etc. Software Radio Technologies tells me they are already working on a significantly lower cost Class B circuit board, and there’s a rumor circulating that China and South Korea are close to mandating B on some 250,000 vessels—freakin all of them—perhaps as soon as this year, with a three year full roll out! Wouldn’t that goose the technology, and our collective knowledge about how to best use it?
AIS Class B, messages & data fields
March 30, 2007
Class B AIS transponder for $500, maybe
December 2, 2005
Class B AIS, part 2
October 27, 2005
AIS Class B worries, a rebbutal
December 13, 2007