How is the data collected and used by MarineTraffic?

The system is based on the collection and processing of data transmitted via the AIS (Automatic Identification System). The AIS-Receiving stations that comprise the MarineTraffic network pick-up such data and share it with the MarineTraffic central database.

All vessels equipped with an AIS transponder emit AIS-data which can be received by any AIS-receiving unit provided it is within range. AIS message packets are encoded in NMEA sentences (64-bit plain text). A sample is shown below:


The contents of any incoming NMEA sentence can be decoded. This way, information on the following three basic sections can be deducted:

  1. Dynamic Information, such as the subject vessel’s position, speed, current status, course and rate of turn.
  2. Static Information, such as the subject vessel’s name, IMO number, MMSI number, dimensions.
  3. Voyage-specific Information, such as the subject vessel's destination, ETA and draught.

The central database constantly receives and processes large amounts of AIS-data and stores the most important part of it (together with geographic information on a multitude of ports and areas, vessels' photos and other details). Current positions and/or tracks of vessels are displayed on the MarineTraffic Live Map while Positions History, Vessel Details, Port Conditions and Statistics can be easily found using our dedicated web pages.