Indicating the port of destination in AIS

Hello friends,

As the we know, it is compulsory for a captain or master of a vessel to indicate the port of destination in the AIS, along with ship’s identity and other key inputs. However, it appears that there is no set rule or requirement on how that destination is entered. So there are many cases in which destination is entered as an abbreviation, has spelling errors or otherwise completely undecipherable. So my question is:

Isn’t this a major loophole? Basically anyone who wants to obscure their intended destination can enter a random input there? How come this issue is not more tightly regulated?

I guess this is more of a venting than a direct question but I am really puzzled by this. And when I check different port calls, I see that this is very common.


You are right to be concerned about this issue.

There are a few reasons for the lack of standardization of AIS destinations:

  • AIS is a voluntary system, not every vessel has to participate.
  • AIS was originally designed to avoid collisions, not as a vessel tracking & destination tracking system.
  • There is a lack of consensus on standardizing AIS usage, there is no common body that mandates this.

How can we solve this:

  • Standardization by the IMO is a possible approach. If International Maritime Organization mandates proper AIS usage, in junction with AIS receivers being programmed to mark incomplete destination entries this could be a possible solution. Vessels could potentially have an “AIS Score” that designates how well they comply with the regulation from IMO, and this would be calculated on the AIS receivers’-side.
  • AIS score could increase or decrease based on accurate destination (ETA) entries; vessels would be incentivized to enter correct information.
  • Countries themselves could also pass laws regulating AIS usage. This seems difficult, however, to create a blanket standard (every country differ in laws & regulations). IMO seems to be the only international body that has the power to enforce such regulation.

I hope this helps clarify some things, in a nutshell: a regulation needs to be enforced by IMO, AIS Score should implemented & it should be tracked by reprogramming AIS receivers. I think this is a feasible solution to standardize AIS.


1 Like

I really like the idea of AIS score!

Hello Aydin,

You’re correct that in the current AIS system, there isn’t a strict regulation on how a vessel’s destination is entered, leading to abbreviations, spelling errors, or even undecipherable inputs. This does indeed create room for ambiguity and can be exploited to mask a vessel’s true destination. While the AIS protocol has been transformative for maritime safety and monitoring, standardizing the manner of destination input is an area that could benefit from tighter regulations to enhance the transparency and accuracy of ship tracking data.

1 Like

I agree with you that the lack of standardization of AIS destinations is a major loophole that could be exploited to obscure a vessel’s true destination. I think the idea of an AIS Score is a great way to incentivize vessels to enter accurate information. This would also help to improve the transparency and accuracy of ship tracking data.

I think it’s important to note that the IMO is already working on this issue. In 2021, they adopted a new regulation that requires vessels to enter their destination in a more standardized way. This regulation will come into force in 2023.

In addition to the IMO’s efforts, I think it’s also important for individual countries to pass laws that regulate AIS usage. This would help to ensure that all vessels operating in their waters are complying with the same standards.

I’m glad to see that this issue is being discussed, and I’m hopeful that we can find a way to close this loophole and improve the transparency of ship tracking data.