Online AIS plotting, free sites & photo obsessions
So far, the best (free) Web AIS coverage I can find for New York Harbor is provided by Vesseltracker.com. Though you have to register to get even a two hour target delay, the site is helping me understand the scene, VHF chatter included, and also illustrates an important point about AIS today. A lot of medium-sized commercial vessels—like all the up-to-150 passenger Water Taxis I see constantly buzzing around lower Manhattan—are not mandated to carry transponders, and don’t. But the U.S. Coast Guard is hot to change those rules, and in fact just issued a draft of the new mandates that I’ll discuss tomorrow. In the meantime. let’s take a closer look at Vesseltracker and its cousins…
There are many Web sites tracking AIS targets, and it’s amazing how much they vary in style, extra features, and even motivation. Vesseltracker, for instance, is a business offering professional subscription services in addition to its free viewer, but also has some very active “community” functions, like vessel photo sharing. I found this shot of NY Pilot No. 1, and then learned it was taken by “MSC Michi”—who is site champ, with 3,800 different photos uploaded to date, and he has close competitors! At any rate, it’s been a while since I tried to list free AIS viewers, and there have been subtractions, additions, and modifications:
Shine Micro Live AIS no longer covers Boston and Maine but excels in the Puget Sound area, and also has Long Island Sound and Chesapeake Bay (if you use the Google Maps version). BoatSF.com is still doing a nice job with San Francisco bay, including a neat animation of the last hour’s traffic. Unfortunately AISLive—the big daddy of AIS plotting sites, now covering 2,000 spots in 100 countries—no longer has a non-subscription viewing area. But the Siitech viewers, which usefully count AIS types, have quite a bit of coverage, as does Vesseltracker.
A group of ShipPlotter enthusiasts have got the UK covered pretty well at ShipAIS, but there’s also OrwellAIS, which covers just a small area around Suffolk—but includes interesting twists like databases of vessels seen, even a Class B list—and Saltdean covering the Southeast coast. And Live AIS World is a grab bag of enthusiast sites (and dead links). You all may have some good additions to this list, but I’ll close with a newish site called Localizatodo; it only covers Spain, Portugal, and the Canary Islands, and is only in Spanish, but has some excellent features like track history, illustrated below and bigger here. I imagine that eventually all the best viewing features and public coverage areas will pile up on a few big sites. And, if the USCG gets it way (very likely), there will be lots more vessels to track in a year or two, even outside the U.S.