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Development of Standard Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) Methodologies to Map Vessel Traffic Patterns and Estimate Shipping Impact to Local Air Quality.


Recent emission inventories have helped establish a growing consensus on how to link available vessel attribute data to AIS vessels to estimate emissions. However, there are no formal data handling or emission calculation methods which new users of this approach can use as a reference. Such a methodology would not only help new users but would also insure consistency and comparability across emission inventories developed by others, making it possible to compile adjacent port inventories in the development of larger regional inventories

This project is to propose a standardized approach that could be used by any government agency or port to develop their emission estimates. This tool will provide insight regarding the preprocessing of AIS data, linkage of AIS data to datasets of vessel attributes required for emissions calculations, identification of anomalies in AIS or vessel attribute data, sources for alternative data that can be used to gap fill missing data, and practical quality checks that should be implemented to ensure the results are correct and reasonable.


This project would propose a standard methodology that addresses the following topics:

· General summary of how to estimate emissions using AIS data0;

· Data structure issues such as temporal and geo-spatial limitations;

· Step to preprocess raw AIS data;

· How to link AIS vessels to classification society vessel attributes;

· Gap filling missing data elements, including discussion of alternative data sources;

· Recommending methods to accurately estimate engine operating load;

· Available emission factors that account for compliance with exhaust and fuel standards;

· Set of equations or code for the propulsion engine emission calculations;

· Techniques to estimate auxiliary and boiler emissions (possibly based on operating modes);

  • Application of satellite imagery to identify vessels that are not equipped with AIS transmitters, to evalute uncertainty in the AIS dataset, and

· Recommended quality checks that will be required at critical stages of the process (this could include use of GIS tools to help identify anomalies).

The final document will need to be peer reviewed by a range of experts experienced in developing AIS data sets for air quality purposes. It is recommended that the final peer reviewed guidance be promoted by TRB and updated regularly as AIS and associated data sources evolve.


By creating standardized procedures to handle AIS data and making them part of the public domain, new users of AIS data will have a framework to develop their own datasets derived from the insight of more experienced users and to allow for the development of inventories of comparable quality between agencies, port authorities and other researchers.

Related Research:

There could be a shared interest in this project with the Committees on Environmental Analysis in Transport and Transportation and Air Quality


The following activities are not comprehensive, and are intended as a guide to what might be necessary to successfully develop AIS guidance:


Compile available information about inventories that were developed by others using AIS data;


Review the compiled AIS inventory documentation identifying the end user (e.g. SIP compliance, exposure modeling, emission trends assessments);


Draft a summary report that lays out methods used to estimate emissions, noting the strength and weakness of alternative approaches;


Recommend a general approach to estimate emissions using AIS data, that includes:

o Suggested data structures and possible impact on temporal and geospatial constraints;

o Determining spatial aspects of the study (outer boundary, the definition of shipping lanes; reduced speed zones, near port areas, dockside buffers, and modeling constraints);

o Defining sampling time frame;

o Possible sources of AIS data;

o How best to handle the raw AIS data;

o Discussion of Classification Society datasets, including value added as well as limitations;

o Describe how to link AIS vessels to Classification Society vessel attributes;

o Identification of missing critical data elements;

o Gap filling methods, including available alternative data sources;

o Flagging of vessel transits outside of the geographic sample area;

o Recommended methods to estimate engine operating load;

o Available emission factors that account for compliance with exhaust and fuel standards that can be applied to the global fleet;

o A set of equations or code for the propulsion engine emission calculations;

o Techniques for assignment of fuel type;

o Techniques to estimate auxiliary engine emissions;

o Techniques to estimate boiler emissions; and

o Recommended quality checks that will be required at critical stages of the process.


The recommended approach should include “real life” examples of possible issues the user may encounter and include provision of example calculations;


The draft document should be shared with others who have developed air quality studies using AIS data to ensure their insights are incorporated in the final guidance;


The final AIS guidance should be posted on a TRB website for international distribution; and


The guidance should be reviewed periodically to account for any new developments in AIS data structure, new alternative datasets, and new fuel consumption factors, emission factors or HAP speciation profiles.


Agencies such as the EPA, BOEM, and IMO, as well as port authorities, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and consultants, may find the development and promotion of a standardized methodology for handling AIS data for air quality purposes, particularly useful in developing emission inventories that are comparable to other similar projects.

TRB could play a critical role in the development, peer review and promotion of these procedures.


This project has direct value for government agencies, port authorities, consultants, academic institutes, and non-governmental organizations involved in creating marine vessel emission studies. The EPA continues to develop port air quality guidance; it is anticipated that the next issuance of guidance will include use of AIS in developing emission inventories.

Sponsoring Committee:AW030, Marine Environment
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Michael Aldridge and Richard Billings
Source Info:U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center, EPA CMV emission inventory methodologies, 2014 and 2017 BOEM Gulf of Mexico emission inventories and other port inventories that have used AIS data such as Houston, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Virginia Beach, Seattle, and Port Everglades as well as classification societies such as IHS/Lloyds.
Date Posted:07/10/2019
Date Modified:02/25/2021
Index Terms:Identification systems, Detection and identification technologies, Standardization, Water traffic, Shipping, Air quality, Pollutants, Methodology,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Marine Transportation
Data and Information Technology

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