The first AIS station on the Manukau Harbour

By Robyn Pearce

There are times in any boatie’s experience when it’s helpful for others to know where you are, or for you to know what other boat traffic is nearby. By installing an Automatic Identification System (AIS) on your vessel, you will increase your boating safety.

However, a vital element in the system is to have reliable receiving stations, and until very recently we had none around the Manukau Harbour, with the exception of around Cornwallis and a small reach at the Port of Onehunga. However, that has recently changed. Thanks to a community-minded family on Torkar Road, we now have a permanent AIS receiving station at Clarks Beach. Their transmitter has an average range of 32.2 nautical miles, ranging up to 79.3, and an amazing coverage area of up to 1107 km2. In the last month they’ve received signals from 1602 vessel movements.

So, what is an AIS?
Essentially, it’s a digital radio-based transponder system that uses GPS, VHF radio and sophisticated digital processing to automatically communicate between vessels without any operator interaction. The main benefit of equipping your boat, even recreational ones, is safety. This applies in a number of ways

1 Any vessels equipped with transponders can see each other, the size, the speed, the destination, and all manner of other information. At night, in bad weather or fog, this is very helpful

2. You can now get smaller devices to attach to life vests or life rafts. If you’ve ever tried to pick up a Man Overboard in rough seas, you’ll know how hard it is to see a person in the water.

3. If you’re travelling in tandem with other boats, you can keep in touch with each other, even when not in eye range.

You’re not required to have AIS gear on your recreational boat, but its advantages are numerous. A good explanation of the pros and cons of installing AIS on your craft can be seen at You can also get a range of AIS Apps on your smart phone or computer to track vessels, both locally and internationally. Marine Traffic is one of the widely used ones.