FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

AIS Tracking

Satellite AIS

Google Earth

Maritime Photo Community

Problems with the website

vesseltracker.com API-Manual

If you have any questions regarding our API or simply would like to know which options are available to integrate our functionality, then you will find an overview here:

What is AIS ?

AIS stands for Automatic Identification System. It was introduced by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) to improve safety in the maritime traffic. All ships equipped with AIS transponders exchange their current movement data such as position, course and speed as well as other additional information via the VHF channels 87B and 88B. In professional shipping, the system is already part of the equipment requirements for SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea).

Do all ships transmit AIS data ?

For vessels on international voyages AIS is mandatory from the registered tonnage (RT) of 300. For vessels on national voyages it is mandatory from 500 RT. For passenger ships the regulation is as follows:

International voyages:

  • All passenger ships and all other ships with registered tonnage >300 RT since 2004

National voyages:

  • All passenger ships and all other ships with registered tonnage >500 until 1. July, 2008

What kind of information is transmitted over AIS ?

Vessel name, callsign, MMSI number (user ID), IMO number, position, course over ground, speed over ground, true heading, rate of turn, length, beam, draught, type of vessel, navigational status, destination and estimated time of arrival.

1. Static Information:

  • IMO Nummer (if available)
  • Name
  • Callsign
  • Dimensions (length, beam, reference point)
  • Type of ship

2. Dynamic Information:

  • Current Position
  • Time in UTC when the position was measured
  • Course over ground
  • Speed over ground
  • true heading
  • Navigational Status (e.g. restricted manoeuvrability)
  • Rate of turn

3. Voyage specific information:

  • Draught
  • Type of cargo
  • Destination port and estimated time of arrival
  • Route plan (optional)

What do the orange and blue symbols mean on the map view ?

Blue - Ship is moving
Orange - Ship is not moving

Why are some or all of the ships in my region not visible on vesseltracker ?

Our AIS network is still being expanded. Currently it does not cover all the regions you might be looking for. We are always interested in favourable new antenna locations. If you would like to cooperate with us to cover your region, please contact us.

We need an easy way to track the vessels operated by our company. What can you offer us?

We can highlight the vessels which are most interesting to you, for example by displaying them in a different color. Please contact us.

In what form can I get vessel information from vesseltracker ?

We can give you the data in almost any format (XML, CSV, etc.). It all depends on your needs. Contact us.

What is Satellite AIS ?

Satellite AIS (S-AIS) is an emerging technology designed to detect wide area maritime vessel movements on a global scale. S-AIS extends the range of the existing maritime Automatic Identification System. Where previously, detecting vessels only occurred within a relatively short range from shore, S-AIS allows maritime agencies and commercial organizations to obtain a more complete picture of their Areas (or vessels) of Interest, resulting in an improved ability to identify potential threats, better monitoring of traffic patterns, and a more cost effective use of other assets.

How a Satellite Collects Data ?

Satellite-based AIS is feasible because VHF signals from AIS transponders are able to travel the 400 or so miles into space to reach a low-Earth-orbiting satellite. The satellite receives the signal, and then forwards it to a ground station for processing and storage. From here the information can be delivered in a variety of electronic formats to any number of computer systems and displays.

How we receive the Data from the Satellite ?

A satellite orbits the planet and collects data as it travels, transmitting that data when it is in sight of a compatible earth station (also often referred to as a ground station, antenna or dish). A satellite typically passes within sight of an earth station in 10 minutes. Once data is downlinked from a satellite to an earth station, it is transmitted to the top-tier data processing centre(DPC). The DPC system receives all data downlinked at the earth stations and in only a few minutes, processes the data to extract every possible AIS message. In the next few seconds, you can see the resulting messages(vessel positions) in our systems.

What do the green, red and white symbols mean on Google Earth ?

Green - Ship is moving
Red - Ship is not moving
White - Course and movement status is not yet clear, because we have received very little information from the ship.

Why do I see the name of every ship twice or even three times ?

You have opened our KMZ file more than once in Google Earth. In the folder "Places" under "My Places" or "Temporary Places", there are probably more than one file named "vesseltracker_xxxx.kmz" or "vesseltrackerlight.kmz". You should remove all but one of these files.

How can I find a ship in Google Earth ?

Press the keys <Ctrl>+<F>, then enter the ship's name into the search field that comes up on the left side-bar, and press Enter. Google Earth now shows you the ship you are looking for in the list.

Why can't I see any vessels in Google Earth ?

For AIS Tracking with vesseltracker you need at least Google Earth version 4! Please check which version you have and update to version 4 if applicable.

You find the online update function in the "Help" menu under "Check for Updates Online".

For all problems with google earth we wrote a step-by-step manual (only available in german for now). download manual

I am a ship photographer and would like to avail some of my photos to Vasseltracker.

Please register for our Free Account. Then you can upload your photos and comment on them. Click here to register now.

How does the photographer list work ?

The photographers list is created as follows:

  • To enter the list, you need to upload at least 50 photos.
  • The order is determined by the number of photos, the number of vessels and the number of votes.
  • The three parameters have different influence on the order. (50 photos of 50 different ships will be rated higher than 50 photos of 10 different ships).
  • The photographers list will updated about one time a week.

I can't find the vessel of which I want to upload a photo.

We have only those vessels in our database, that have an AIS transponder and have visited our covered areas.

At the moment it is not yet possible to add missing vessels manually.

Problems with the website

  • I can't log in / log out anymore
  • I can't see any vessels on the maps anymore
  • I can't upload photos anymore
  • I can't create alerts anymore
This is caused by an error in your browser cache. To solve this problem you have to delete your temporary internet files.
Manual to delete temporary internet files

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