Vessel traffic data, or Automatic Identification System (AIS) data, are collected by the U.S. Coast Guard through an onboard navigation safety device that transmits and monitors the location and characteristics of large vessels in U.S. and international waters in real time. In the U.S., the Coast Guard and commercial vendors collect AIS data, which can also be used for a variety of coastal planning purposes. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have worked jointly to repurpose and make available some of the most important records from the U.S. Coast Guard's national network website of AIS receivers. Information such as location, time, ship type, speed, length, beam, and draught have been extracted from the raw data and prepared for analyses in desktop GIS software. BOEM and NOAA have also worked together to build a collection of tools and instructional materials. These are designed to help analysts process the data and derive products that improve offshore site analysis, use-conflict studies, and the understanding of marine transportation patterns.

The Data  

Ship density map imageThe data contain records for U.S. coastal waters for calendar years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Records are filtered to one minute and formatted in zipped, monthly file geodatabases by Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) zone. View the index map of UTM zones for an area of interest. Note: Ship name and call sign fields have been removed, and the MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) field has been encrypted for the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 data at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Download the Data

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Users can now download a full year of AIS data at once using an open source software called wget.


For assistance, please email us at

The Tools

Track Builder Script

This tool converts a collection of point features into a track line. The input data must include date and time values for each point and an identifier to group points in a line. It is designed to work with data available from but will also function with other feature classes that contain a DateTime field and a unique identifier. When used with data, the tool also offers a function to extract vessel and voyage attributes from related tables for each line.

Technical Specifications

  1. ArcGIS Toolbox ArcPy script compatible with ArcGIS for Desktop 10.1 or later
  2. ArcGIS for Desktop Standard or Advanced license required for relationship class functionality

View Tutorial Download

AIS Data Handler Pre-Processor – Archive

For users with their own AIS receivers or other sources of raw (NMEA 0183 v.4) data, this pre-processor contains both a command-line tool to filter raw AIS log files and an add-in tool to load the data into a file geodatabase. Please note that this tool is no longer being supported but is still available.

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AIS Data Handler Add-In – Archive

This add-in tool extends ArcGIS with new functions to clean, filter, build, and analyze AIS data. Use this tool to process the data from or from the output of the AIS Data Handler Pre-Processor. Please note that this tool is no longer being supported but is still available.

Technical Specifications:

  1. Operating System: Windows XP, Vista, or 7 (32 or 64-bit)
  2. ArcGIS 10.0 full ArcInfo license required for relationship class functionality
  3. Spatial Analyst for density grid functionality

View Tutorial Download Source Code


U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center
U.S. Coast Guard Nationwide Automatic Identification System (AIS) Project
NOAA Office of Coast Survey
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary