It's been almost 18 months since the U.S. Coast Guard approved a variety of yacht-size Class B AIS transponders, and the FCC still hasn't added its blessing! I'll spare you further ranting, but understand that we may have to wait for a new administration before we can use this valuable safety tool. However, Shine Micro has come up with a clever work-around: You can now purchase its AIS-BX Class B transponder for $799 and use it as a high-performance, true dual-channel AIS receiver until the FCC relents, at which time a simple online activation procedure and an added $200 will convert it to a full transceiver. The AIS-BX is in fact a European unit which I've done preliminary testing on under a different brand name, and I can report that it's ruggedly built and easily provides GPS and AIS info to both a plotter and computer simultaneously. Hence you can track all large vessels currently using Class A AIS. Shine Micro not only is an expert distributor of AIS-related gear, including the antennas and cables you'll need for a proper RadarPlus install, but also builds its own series of high-end AIS receivers and is even developing one combined with private tender-tracking abilities.
This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.