Before everything else, know that CruiseMapper's live cruise ship tracker is at the website's main page. CruiseMapper has several major hubs where you can see lists of vessels grouped by type or destination. These are: Icebreakers, River Cruises, Russian River Cruises, Nile River Cruises (most ships can't be tracked due to unannounced MMSI's).
Tracking cruise ships' current positions has never been that easy thanks to the AIS technology (abbrev from "Automatic Identification System"). This is an automatic system used for tracking cruise ship positions and by vessel tracking services (VTS), locating and identifying cruise ships by AIS data exchange between nearby cruise ships and AIS receiving stations.
AIS tracking of cruise ships positions
Real-time AIS tracking of cruise ships starts in 2002 when all passenger ships and merchant vessels that are more than 300 gross tons were obliged to install AIS transponders aboard. The new regulation for mounting AIS on all existing cruise ships has been implemented bit by bit.
Technically, the AIS tracking of cruise ship position's system uses very high frequency (FHV) radio channels to transmit encoded information and localize the current position of cruise ships at sea. The typical range of AIS receiving stations is around 30-50 nautical miles depending on the weather condition.
AIS transponder of each cruise ship transmits AIS messages that are being received by AIS receiving stations located ashore. Transmitted AIS information reports the current cruise ship position, its speed and course over ground. Generally, the cruise ship officer is accountable for setting the cruise ship's AIS transponder to transmit information like cruise ship name, its dimensions, the type of the cruise ship and estimated time of arrival. However, this kind of AIS information isn't always correctly entered and it might be outdated.
According to International Maritime Law, it is mandatory for all anchored or moored cruise vessels to transmit their current position at least every three minutes. Cruise ships sailing with speed up to 14 knots are required to transmit their current location every 10 seconds; at up to 23 knots speed, every 6 seconds; and those sailing with speed over 23 knots need to transmit their current position every 2 seconds. Additionally, the static AIS information, like vessel name, its destination and ETA, is being transmitted in separate AIS messages every 6 minutes. This information is used for vessel tracking purposes.
The basic utility of using the AIS technology is facilitating the communication between cruise ships, passenger ships and commercial vessels. The World Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) reported a greater number of ship response after calling a vessel by its name, rarely providing an alteration of the passenger ship course by the give way ship. Here are some comments regarding AIS system of the ARC's participants:
- "AIS tracking of cruise ships has never been that sophisticated. There is also no that effective system than the AIS when it comes to maritime safety." – John Sandors, Branec IX
- "AIS system is of great importance; despite high cost for transmit units and the high power consumption for private yachts, it must be mandatory for all ships, not only passenger vessels and those over 300 tons." – Antony Langevin, Into the Deep
- "I would never leave the port without having AIS-installed onboard my ship. It's a great system, which enables any cruise ship to be called by its name." – Megan Rathford, Malmaani.
- You can find more info on the Automatic Identification System at this Wikipedia link.
Next photo shows China's Yuanwang-class satellite tracking ship.
This class (trabslated "Long View") ships are used for tracking of satellites and intercontinental ballistic missiles. From what is known about the vessel's deatails, it has displacement tonnage 21,000 tons (fully loaded), crew capacity 470, LOA length 190 m (620 ft). The ship's propulsion is Sulzer, allowing top speed 20 kn (23 mph / 37 kph). This ship gave China (for the first time ever) the ability to track foreing satellites, as well as satellite and missile launches. The last 2 vessels of this series were constructed in 2007.