Have you ever sat around in the wheelhouse with an hour to spare and wondered where another boat is? Well, I used to, until I was introduced to MarineTraffic.com. The website and app will not only tell you what boats are near you, but it will tell you what boats are moored off Buenos Aires, Sumatra, or just about anywhere around the world. MarineTraffic has been so successful that it has recently updated its app functions, and added a news feed - with content provided by g-Captain and OnboardOnline.
All this information is easily accessible on iPhones, iPads and Androids (or just an old-fashioned pc). It includes real-time data on flagstate, vessel type, status and even speed, all sourced from Automatic Identification Systems (AIS).
Since 2004, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has required all vessels with a gross tonnage of more than 300 tons to be equipped with an AIS transponder for security reasons. The transponder sends out all this information – speed, course, location, name, dimensions and other voyage details. MarineTraffic.com has access to around 1,200 AIS receiving stations across the globe, which collect the data and send it to the main datacentre, where it is processed and displayed on the Live Map. This is what you see on your phone, tablet or computer.
The system covers 9 million square kilometres (3.5 million square miles) of coastal areas across the globe. This includes detailed coverage of 2,500 ports in high traffic areas.
The tool is very useful for those who work in a marine environment (which, we assume, most of you do). For example, one marina operator in Fort Lauderdale told us he is continually monitoring the app on his iPhone to see who is coming his way so he can have hands and lines at the ready the moment a yacht comes into port. The yachts generally call ahead, but it can take an hour for them to get where they’re headed using the inland waterways of Fort Lauderdale, so the app allows him to tell when the vessel is a mile out so he’s not wasting time waiting.
And given that the app uses GoogleMaps, it’s incredibly simple to use. Either click on a certain coverage area, or type a search in one of three prompts – “Go to area,” “Go to port,” or “Go to vessel.” For example, S/Y Maltese Falcon was found moored in Privateer Bay just off Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands. (This is one of my favourite destinations in the BVIs, and I hope the crew enjoyed the great snorkelling at Treasure Point, and nearby Pelican Island and the Indians. Spectacular stuff!)
For ease of use, the system also distinguishes between various types of vessels using colour to denote cargo, passenger, tanker, tug and luxury vessels.
In calling up Port Hercules in Monaco, I found M/Y Passionata along with two dozen other vessels. It is useful not only for captains, but all crew; you may know who is in port with you, but friends on yachts just along the coast could be just a train ride away.
Some of the newer features include a 'My fleet' option. You can use this to add your actual fleet, or to track where your clients or friends are - viewable on a world map.
Also added is a (paid) augmented reality function. Using your location and camera you can point your phone out to boats at anchor and be informed who's out there - a feature long on the wish list of many of us.
The handy wind map is another great feature, allowing you to choose knots or celcius as the gage.
It’s a handy bit of kit for work or play, and certainly one that we can't do without! OnboardOnline would like to thank MarineTraffic.com for providing our readers with easy access to its global coverage directly from our homepage.
You can access MarineTraffic.com by clicking on the “MarineTraffic” link along the right side of the page, or by clicking the logo below: