BIMCO to work on AIS abuse to protect shipowners
The shipping industry is working to curb the misuse of satellite positioning data from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and the practice of shutting off these mandatory systems.
As a way of defending shipowners and the industry, the shipping association BIMCO focuses on the practice, specifically charter abuses.
AIS transmits information about a ship, including its identity and location, as required by SOLAS regulations. It should not be disabled or turned off at any time other than for very valid safety and security reasons allowed by the regulations, such as preventing piracy detection in high-risk areas.
The practice of turning off AIS and the risks has been demonstrated by recent accidents in the Gulf of Guinea where ships have been lost, raising concerns of hijackings or assaults.
Most frequently, switching off AIS is associated with clandestine activities.
When the United States issued an advisory in 2020 on the deceptive practices used to prevent sanctions by rogue nations and shipping interests, they specifically highlighted the switching off of AIS as a practice to be monitored by shipping companies and one that could lead to the black listing of shipping assets.
In May 2020, the Panama Maritime Authority also issued a stern warning to all Panamanian flagged vessels that intentionally deactivate, tamper with, or alter AIS or Long Range Identification and Tracking System operations.
Panama warned that penalties of up to $10,000 and/or de-registration or de-flagging of the Panama Registry vessel for these abuses would be enforced.
The concern of BIMCO is that some charterers may, in their haste to comply with sanctions, develop their own AIS "switch off" clauses that may expose owners to the risk of termination even if, for legitimate reasons, the AIS has been switched off. They also cite instances when, for reasons outside the control of the owners, the signal has failed to transmit or be received.
Maritime Business World