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Inland Marine Transportation Data Collection Using Automatic Identification Systems

Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) are a technology that has revolutionized vessel traffic control and marine navigation collision avoidance. Ships digitally exchange information including vessel name, position, course, speed, and navigation status. This information is also exchanged with shore-based vessel traffic services (VTS).

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) collects, maintains and distributes U.S. navigable waterway waterborne commerce data. Owing to the sensitive nature of this data, vessel trips and tonnage data is aggregated to protect the business book information of marine carriers. However, the level of this aggregation undermines the ability for researchers to perform detailed risk analysis. A recent study performed by Dr. James Dobbins found that publicly available USACE trip data is too aggregated to be useful in risk calculations. Vessel traffic is reported on segments as long as 700 miles (Upper Mississippi River), instead of much smaller stretches of waterway, such as port to port.

This project utilized an AIS receiver at Paducah, KY (at the confluence of the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers). This receiver continuously logged AIS data for a period of six months. This log of data was archived and researchers designed and developed a means of analyzing and visualizing the information. Custom GIS routines were developed to convert the large amount of vessel positions (one position every ten seconds from every vessel within 17 miles of Paducah, KY) into vessel tracks that represent the waterway transit.

The benefits of this project include the potential for an improved, automated means of tracking waterborne commerce in the U.S. Other potential benefits include validation of existing trip data, development of a methodology for archiving and interpreting large amounts of GIS data, and the creation of detailed vessel trip data for use in emissions and planning models.

The final project report (manuscript submitted to the Transportation Research Board) is available here.