Maritime Forum

Maritime Forum Themes


Shipping density maps from AIS signals

Event date:
07/09/2017 - 00:00
Table of Contents
    With growing demands for sea-space, the planning of new activities requires knowledge of what is already happening. EMODnet already provides many data on human activities but, so far, shipping has not been included. The increasing use and availability of information from ships' AIS anti-collision systems offers a route to provide this information. The aim of this meeting is to see how this can be done.


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    offshore wind farm

    Thursday 7 September 09.30-15.00

    Room J99 05/SDR

    Rue Joseph II, 99, 1000 Brussels, Belgium

    EMODnet requirements

    • Better access and availability of marine data can improve productivity, stimulate innovation and reduce risk. The EMODnet partners are now providing data and data products on geology, habitats, topography, biology, chemistry, physics of European waters as well as human activity on those waters. Stress tests and conversations with users of marine data indicate that shipping density maps are amongst the most sought-after; but are not yet provided. The EMODnet human activities team who started work in March 2017 are contractually obliged to offer these products.


    • Class B boats are visible from satellite but only just
    • For European waters – Baltic, Black Sea, Mediterranean, North Sea –signal collisions mean that data picked up by satellites are not on their own sufficient to provide a reliable picture.
    • The detectability of type 27 long-range signals is higher than for the other signals because it was designed for satellite reception and signal collision consequently less. However as of yet fewer boats are equipped.


    • Different methods are used but all required significant data cleaning in order to remove or correct false positions, timings (in tests around Africa, specially a problem for data from shore stations) or duplicates
    • Data processing took days on standard PCs although JRC’s algorithm (using MATLAB) was faster
    • Linking the data to other information such as Lloyd’s Register can improve knowledge
    • HELCOM will release the scripts (using R and Python) they used to clean the data and prepare the maps. The scripts also generate a summary of the number of wrong signals due to duplication, wrong IMO numbers, wrong positions, etc. They suggest that different techniques might be necessary for signals picked up on shore from those by satellites. 


    • The number of applications and potential applications of density maps is extremely wide – spatial planning, environmental impact (noise and emissions), ballast water risk, fisheries management, Arctic traffic analysis. All these require different products. For instance some may want vessel density; others traffic flux. Some may require vessels travelling above or below a certain threshold speed. It is not a trivial exercise to define the most suitable products for the widest use.

    Data availability

    • Many more signals picked up by satellites have become available since the original 2010 PASTA-MARE project
    • Most data providers – satellite companies and third party resellers – offer data picked up both by satellites and coastal stations.
    • Use of data depends on the terms of the contract with the distributor / owner of data.
    • EMSA obtain their data from coastal stations from competent authorities for maritime navigation. They will present their proposed method for a density map service to a meeting of these authorities in November at a date that has still to be fixed. DG-MARE were invited to present EMODnet requirements to that meeting.
    • EMSA’s data from satellites is purchased from LuxSpace and distribution depends on the terms of the contract.

    Next steps

    DG-MARE will prepare a requirements paper for presentation to competent authorities for navigation in November. They will share this information with those present at the meeting and report on the outcome afterwards through a follow-up meeting.



    Alessandro Pittito

    in person

    DG-MARE Alexandru Chiric in person
    EMSA Edmunds Belinskis by video link
    DG-MARE Charlotte Herman in person


    Florent Nicolas

    by video link

    Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia 

    Gašper Zupančič

    by video link

    Lux Space

    Gerd Eiden

    in person

    Joint Research Centre

    Harm Greidanus

    in person


    Iain Shepherd

    in person

    DG-MARE Haize Siemers in person
    EMODnet secretariat Jan-Bart Caelwaert in person
    EMSA Lawrence Sciberras  by video link


    Manuel Frias Vega

    by video link

    EMSA Philippe Carreau by video link
    Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) Stian Aamot by video link

    Norwegian Defence Research Establishment

    Torkild Eriksen

    in person



    Need for shipping density maps DG-MARE
    Requirements  COGEA

    Previous Experience (PASTA-MARE)

    LuxSpace presentation


    HELCOM experience (AIS seminar)

    From AIS signals to usable data

    how we made density maps


    JRC Experience

    presentation from JRC

    Adriatic Experience IzVRS
    Norwegian Experience FFI

    EMSA planning

    presentation from EMSA

    Next steps Discussion