Cruising Association warns

Virtual Reality has come to the cockpits of leisure craft, but there is a potential problem, says the Cruising Association.

Many yachtsmen have, or know of, AIS – Automatic Identification System – which allows us to display the course, speed, position, and relevant technical information, transmitted from all craft carrying AIS – Class A for commercial shipping or Class B for leisure craft.

The system now has the ability to represent Aids to Navigation (ATON) electronically, and comes in three forms:

AIS ATON – This is either a physical mark equipped with its own AIS transceiver, or a physical mark at sea with an AIS base station located to transmit the data representing the mark, but not from the mark. Such a shore based base station could transmit data covering several physical marks.

Virtual ATON – VATON. These marks would only be apparent to an AIS equipped vessel with an electronic display capable of showing such signals. There would be no physical mark at sea. These might typically be used when there has been a recent hazard to navigation identified, such as wreck in a channel.

AIS ATON and VATON have been introduced into service, but some of the equipment and installations used by yachts may not be capable of interpreting and displaying this potentially important safety related information without modification because they were designed before this came into place.

A CA spokesman said: ‘There is no easy means of checking whether any particular installation can or cannot display these signals. The only way to do so is to contact the manufacturer of your AIS equipment. They will need to know the model of the display unit, and the device receiving the VHF signal, plus the standard of connection between the two units. In the majority of cases the latter will be either NMEA 0183 or NMEA 2000. In some cases it may only require an alteration to the wiring of the installation.’