All vessels or boats above 12 metres of length overall and licensed to fish will soon have to be fitted with an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for better monitoring and sea patrol of vessels. The AIS is an automatic tracking system used on boats and vessels for identifying and locating vessels by communicating data electronically to a station through satellites.
In this context, the Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries, Shipping and Outer Islands will promulgate the Fisheries and Marine Resources (Automatic Identification System) Regulations which will be effective as from 1 August 2016.
The following four categories of vessels are concerned and are being dealt with by different authorities. The categories are:
- Vessels above 24 metres: Shipping Division of the Ministry of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries, Shipping and Outer Islands
- Pleasure Crafts: Ministry of Tourism and External communications and Tourism Authority
- Fishing vessels registered with the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries, Shipping and Outer Islands
- Foreign Vessels coming to Mauritius.
As far as registered foreign fishing vessels are concerned, owners of these vessels will be informed that fitment of AIS on their vessels will be one of the conditions to fish in our waters. There will be an amendment to the Fishing license and an implementation period will be granted for fitment of same.
A new condition for installation of AIS system will be included in all new licenses issued to foreign vessels allowed to fish in our waters, to be implemented with immediate effect.
The system will be designed with a fool-proof system to prevent vessels from switching off their AIS on board. The National Coast Guard (NCG) will monitor movement of vessels though the coastal radar surveillance system and the NCG will be empowered to impose penalty on vessels in contravention to this condition. Penalty clause will be included when amending respective regulations.
Legislations falling under the purview of respective departments and ministries are being amended to cater for all the above requirements and make fitment of AIS mandatory as applicable.
Enhancing safety at sea
The Shipborne Automatic Identification System (AIS) as specified by International Maritime Organisation, is a ship and shore based broadcast system, operating in the VHF maritime band. It is capable of sending and receiving ship information such as identity, position, course, speed, ship particulars and cargo information to and from other ships, suitably equipped aircraft and shore. Fitment of AIS transponder is mandatory for vessels above 300 tons and very few vessels to which this requirement is not applicable have installed AIS transponder on a voluntary basis.
Each AIS station consists of one VHF transmitter, two VHF receivers, one VHF DSC receiver, a standard marine electronic communications link and sensor systems. Timing and positional information is derived from an integral Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver.
The benefits of the AIS are:
- All movements inward and outward of the lagoon can be actively and positively monitored by Coastal Surveillance Radar System and ships/boats on patrol.
- Movement to and from prohibited areas such as marine reserves and security sensitive areas namely marine roadstead, anchorages and Liquefied Petroleum Gas terminals can be policed.
- Better identification and distress attention in requirement of search and rescue.
- Early detection of ‘unidentified’ craft.
- Better monitoring of pleasure craft and tourist boats operating inshore