The CMA CGM Alexander von Humboldt, one of the world's largest container ships

Links to help you keep track of the fleet

The CMA CGM Alexander von Humboldt, one of the world's largest container ships
The CMA CGM Alexander von Humboldt, one of the world’s largest container ships

I’ve written before about the Marine Traffic website, which uses the Automatic Identification System (AIS) that ships above a certain size are required to make use of, in order to track their location. We use it to find out about the ships that sometimes come into False Bay for shelter. Ship Finder is a similar, somewhat more user friendly variant of the Marine Traffic map. I find it a bit easier to use, especially when looking at a vessel’s path through time. If you really want to, you can see air traffic instead (warning: it’s terrifying and you may wish to unsee it)!

There is also OpenSeaMap, which is an offshoot of the OpenStreetMap project. OpenStreetMap is a crowdsourced project to create an editable world map that is free of charge. You can visit the OpenStreetMap website to see what it’s about. OpenSeaMap uses some of the OpenStreetMap data, but also includes marine information such as the location of lighthouses and buoys, and some quite limited AIS information. The map also purports to include tidal data, seabed profiles, and water depths, but is a work in progress.

Finally, there is FleetMon, which requires an email address in order to register. There are various account types, most of which require a subscription, as well as apps for Android and iOS (not free of charge). With a free account you can access FleetMon Explorer through your web browser, and it’s a rich AIS interface with a huge (nearly 400,000) vessel database and beautiful maps. You can create a “fleet” of vessels you’re particularly interested in, and track them around the world. However (and this is quite a biggie) you only get five minutes of FleetMon usage per day. If you want more, you have to pay.

In order of usefulness and accessibility, then, I’d look at Ship FinderMarine TrafficOpenSeaMap and FleetMon. Ship spotters will find some useful tools in that list!

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.