Vessel Tracking Using Automatic Identification System Data in the Arctic

  • Torkild EriksenEmail author
  • Øystein Olsen
Part of the WMU Studies in Maritime Affairs book series (WMUSTUD, volume 7)


Satellite AIS data collected with AISSat-1 and AISSat-2 represent more than 5 years of maritime traffic data from the Arctic (north of 67°N). The number of ships observed per month shows large seasonal variations, as well as an annual growth. In August 2014, 2272 ships were observed, in December the number was 1563 ships. The annual growth rate in number of ships per month varies with month; between 113 ships/year for November and 201 ships/year for July. Some of the increase in the number using Class A equipment can be explained by the Control Regulation (EC 1224/2009) that has required AIS to be applied to fishing vessels above 15 m since 31 May 2014. To what extent the remaining increase in reporting vessels is due to higher activity or a higher number of ships using AIS is not studied. Considering geographic sectors of 45° longitude, the most trafficked sector is the 0–45°E sector where typically 75% of the ships in the Arctic are present. The 67.5°-longitude sector has the largest annual relative growth with of 46% or 695 ship-months in the same period. Looking at ship types, the peak numbers recorded in any month are 600 fishing vessels, 430 cargo ships, 120 tankers, 100 passenger ships, and 100 tugs. The seasonal variation most prominent is the fishing vessel peak in winter, while the remaining ship types peak in various summer months. Ship tracks for selected months illustrate the variation of the activity; August has a high number of tracks all around the Arctic as well as to the North Pole. As winter approaches the tracks fistly disappear in Alaska and Canada, then west of Greenland and lastly in the eastern part of the Northeast Passage in February. Activity is seen all year in the Norwegian Sea, the Barents Sea and the Kara Sea. In August 2014 the number of ships observed per day reached 1200 vessels. The number of position updates per ship per day was typically 13 and the largest daily time gap was typically less than 6.7 h. It should be noted that the variation over the Arctic region is large.


Satellite AIS Ship tracks Number of ships Ship traffic trends Ship observations Ship updates Arctic 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Defence Systems DivisionFFIKjellerNorway

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