Using AIS to understand shipping activity

Vessel movement / density maps production to inform marine plan policies for the MMO

Understanding the spatial distribution of shipping routes and small craft use of the sea is important to many planning and development decisions. To inform the development of marine plan policies, we were asked by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to provide vessel movement/density maps for the UK.

Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a maritime navigation safety system that provides real time vessel tracking and information. Traditionally, AIS was the preserve of larger commercial vessels but in recent times an increasing number of smaller craft, including fishing and leisure users are fitting AIS technology to their vessels. AIS information collected by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is the best available data to map UK vessel movements.

Our Data team developed flexible data processing tools and associated geographic information system (GIS) procedures to decode, analyse and display Automatic Identification System (AIS) data from marine vessel traffic. In addition to the creation of tools and routines for AIS data processing, the project also created a national AIS dataset with associated temporal and vessel type density maps and routes for 2011 and 2012.

View the 'Spatial trends in shipping activity' report prepared for the MMO