USCG warns mariners about turning off AIS

The US Coast Guard has issued a warning to mariners and commercial fisherman about the dangers and potential legal consequences of switching off their AIS. The USCG said on Wednesday January 20th that it was concerned at the growing number of vessels which appeared to have been operating with their AIS turned off.

The USCG said that in particular they were concerned at the increase in the number of commercial fishing and crabbing vessels disabling their AIS, apparently so that they can keep secret their favoured fishing spots.

AIS automatically transmits vessel identity, type, position, course, speed, navigational status and safety-related information. Lt Collin Gruin, boarding team supervisor at USCG Sector Columbia River, said that “AIS is a vital tool in a host of Coast Guard missions including search and rescue and port security. It’s not only illegal to turn it off but also incredibly dangerous.”

He added that “crabbers may think that they are protecting their businesses, but they are actually making search and rescue efforts more difficult if an emergency happens at sea”.

While smaller fishing vessels are not affected by the regulatory requirements, all self-propelled vessels that are 65ft or more in length and which are engaged in commercial service and operating within 12nm of the US shore must maintain AIS in an effective operating condition. That entails a continual operation of AIS and its associated devices while the vessel is underway or at anchor, and, if moored, at least 15 minutes prior to getting underway.

The USCG said that operators of vessels that breached this regulation could be fined up to a maximum of $35,486 per violation.