One of the most important resources to help reduce collisions at sea is the AIS. AIS stands for Automatic Identification System. The AIS tracks the movement of ships and yachts in real-time. Importantly, vessels equipped with AIS will display information on the radar screen, where it can be gathered rapidly. However, tracking vessels isn’t only critical to mariners; it can also be fun for kids on the shore. As a captain, I used the AIS ship tracking system routinely. Here is how you can make ship tracking fun for kids. 

What Does The Automatic Identification System Track 

Without question, fellow crew operating vessels can obtain a substantial amount of information from ships and yachts nearby or far off in the distance. Here is the type of information that can be tracked by the AIS system. 

Identity Of The Vessel

The identity of the vessel is included in the AIS report. Importantly some of the information includes the type of ship, the length, width, and the flag to which the ship is registered.

Understanding the characteristics of the ship can better help you spot it when navigating. Undoubtedly, this is especially the case in darkness and during fog, rain, or thunderstorms. 

Vessels Location

Unquestionably, knowing the precise location of a vessel is critical to help reduce the chances of collision. Furthermore, in the event of an emergency, rescue crews can quickly track down the ship in distress. 

Furthermore, the AIS will inform fellow captains if the ship is at anchor or underway. 

Course Of The Vessel

One of the most critical pieces of information in safe navigation is knowing the course of a vessel. The course of a vessel can significantly increase or decrease the chances of a collision at sea. 

With that said, the AIS updates the course of a vessel on a continuous basis so that course changes can be taken well in advance. I often would use the call sign of a vessel and hail them over the VHF radio. This was done when I determined that we would be crossing paths closely. Rather than making course adjustments. Myself and the fellow operator made a passing agreement. 

Vessel Speed

For the most part, ships cruise at relatively low speeds. However, the faster the ship moves the longer it takes for it to slow and stop. With that said, when monitoring close crossing it is imperative to keep speed in mind. 

Why AIS Ship Tracking Is Fun For Kids

Recently, my family and I had a beach vacation near a major port. With that said, we watch the shipping traffic depart the inlet and arrive from the open ocean. One of my kids said it would be cool to get information on the ship. Quickly, I pulled out my phone and visited the Marine Traffic website. 

Kids Can Learn About Ships

My son is into ships and in particular naval ships from all of the books that he reads. That being said, he was particularly interested in gathering information about the military ships entering and exiting the inlet. 

Not only could he obtain a visual of the ship from the beach, but he also learned more information. The information presented taught him about the type of military vessel, its destination, size, and speed. 

Children Understand Speed And Direction 

Kids can have a lot of fun watching the ship move on the open ocean. However, taking it to a deeper understanding provides a level of excitement. 

Not only could my kids see that the ships moved at different speeds but they can determine the exact speed and direction by using the AIS. 

Interestingly, while on the trip, my son quickly realized that the military ships moved at a much faster rate of speed compared to cargo ships. 

Don’t Pay For An Upgraded Version Of AIS Tracking

Importantly, you will not need to pay for an upgraded version of AIS tracking. Without a doubt, the free version provides all of the information necessary to entertain your kids. 

I handed them my phone so they could click on each vessel off of the coast that was within sight. They were able to toggle through and learn more than enough information from the basic version of Marine Traffic. 

AIS Ship Tracking Is Fun

The next time you’re at the beach, check a free AIS ship tracker with your kids. Importantly, you and your kids can learn a lot of information about the maritime industry while relaxing on the beach. Give your kids a test and ask if the ship is at anchor or underway. Lastly, they should be shown how they can determine this information by using the AIS.