New amendments have been added to SOLAS regulation regarding the annual testing of AIS systems. Now all systems will have to be subjected to annual testing conducted by an approved surveyor or servicing facility. The tests will be looking to verify the correct programming of the ship static information and data exchange as well as verifying the radio performance. This new regulation will result in surveyors being equipped with special AIS test equipment and very detailed technical knowledge. The firm conducting the testing must be certified to work on AIS equipment and the surveyors must hold a formal DNV or national AIS service supplier approval. For the full article, click here.
Unfortunately the AIS system still must depend on certain parameters to be entered by the mariner. These parameters, called AIS static data, are unique to the ship i.e. IMO number, Call Sign, MMSI, etc., but are so very important because they are the keys to identifying a ship. With the new annual inspection, any discrepancies will be easily corrected. The voyage related data will still rely on the mariner to update accurately to reflect the current voyage. However, a simple check to verify that the data was entered will also allow an opportunity to ensure that the mariners on the ship are aware of how to update the unit to reflect voyage related data.
The antenna installation and placement are extremely important for the reception of AIS signals by other ships, shore authorities, and satellites. With the annual inspection, there will now be an opportunity to look for and repair corrosion or other "wear and tear" factors that affect the antenna at sea. This situation is especially difficult to identify because any given AIS system may have a degraded signal caused by incorrect antenna installation but the master would have no way of knowing as a faulty system will still function, just not as optimally as required.