Coast Guard officials in Oregon are warning mariners and commercial fishermen against disabling the Automated Identification System on their vessels.
According to the Coast Guard there has been an alarming increase in commercial fishing and crabbing vessels disabling their AIS purportedly in an effort to keep their competitors from knowing where they are fishing.
“AIS is a vital tool in a host of Coast Guard missions including search and rescue and port security,” said Lt. Collin Gruin, boarding team supervisor at the Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “It’s not only illegal to turn it off but also incredibly dangerous.”
While crabbers may think they are protecting their businesses, they actually make search and rescue efforts more difficult if they have an emergency at sea, he said.
AIS is a maritime navigation safety communications system adopted by the international maritime community to save lives and facilitate safe transit of navigable waters. The system automatically transmits vessel information to shore stations, other ships and aircraft, including vessel identity, type, position, course, speed, navigational status and safety-related information.
Regulations require that all self-propelled vessels of 65 feet in length or more engaged in commercial operations and operating on the territorial seas (within 12 nautical miles of shore) must maintain AIS in effective operating condition. That includes continual operation of AIS and its associated devices at all times while the vessel is underway or at anchor and, if moored, at least 15 minutes prior to getting underway.
Effective operation condition also includes the accurate input and upkeep of all AIS data fields.
The Coast Guard notes that an AIS encoding guide is provided to facilitate compliance with this requirement. Violators of the regulation may receive a civil penalty of up to $35,486 per violation.