Both council offices are equipped with Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). The AIS provides the council with real-time information on vessel locations and movements in the Port of Valdez, and areas of Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet.
AISs have become a mandatory piece of equipment on certain ships due to regulations promulgated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The AIS sends out a ship's information to any other ship equipped with an AIS (or in our case a shoreside office) in the area. The information includes a ship's name, IMO number, type of vessel, speed, heading, course, destination, and other information.
This system provides the council with useful real-time as well as historical information. The system can be used to track vessel positions during towing and tether exercises. When a ship is being docked at the terminal, council staff can visually confirm tug identity and quantity, and in what configuration they are being used to dock the vessel. Staff can also more accurately track vessel speeds, arrivals, and departures. Information from the AIS will be kept in a database.
While the use of AIS is relatively new, it has definite safety benefits. Radar can identify another vessel in the vicinity, but it gives very little other information. An AIS onboard a vessel provides other vessels much more detailed information.