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PHUKET: Phuriphat Theerakulpisut, chief of the Phuket Marine Office, today played down an alarming report that all foreign yachts in Phuket had to be fitted with AIS (Automatic Identification System) devices by October 1 or face six months in jail.

The news follows Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut yesterday signing an order to make AIS receivers mandatory on all craft in Phuket waters, effective October 1.

“We are pushing this for safety. We will be able to tell where larger vessels are and possibly be able to determine who caused an accident,” Mr Phuripat told the Phuket Gazette today.

“AIS Class B receivers don’t cost much and boat people know where to get them.”

The use of AIS receivers is a standard safety policy in many places around the world, as they advise skippers of small craft of the location, direction and speed of larger vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver.

“We are looking to have all Thai boats, including the fishing fleet and all transport boats that carry 25 or more passengers, fitted with these,” Mr Phuriphat said.

He also played down the penalty for not carrying an AIS receiver after the deadline, which carries a punishment of up to six months in jail for defying an official order from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

“We will hold a public hearing to clarify details and what regulations are to be applied to which types of vessels at the Royal Phuket Marina on Wednesday, starting at 2pm,” Mr Phuriphat told the Gazette.

“After that, we will start by issuing warnings so that boat vessels know to comply with the order. If they keep ignoring the order, then we will press charges.”

Mr Phuriphat clarified that small recreational yachts would be required to carry only an AIS receiver, while larger vessels will be called on to carry an AIS transceiver.

Nautical equipment websites list the going price for AIS receivers as starting from about 5,500 baht apiece, compared with the “20,000 to 30,000 baht” price reported yesterday in the news, which would cover the cost of an AIS transmitter.

Regarding the report that vessels must have the AIS “on at all times”, Mr Phuripat clarified that this was only while the vessel was in motion.

“Otherwise, it would be a fire risk. It is standard practice to shut everything down when leaving yachts unattended and the crew go ashore,” he noted.

The AIS monitoring system in operation at the “one-stop yacht center” at Chalong Pier (story here), is served by six relay towers in Phuket, two in Phang Nga and two in Krabi, Mr Phuriphat explained.

“The next phase is to install more relay towers in Phang Nga and Krabi, and then extend the system to cover all vessels entering Ranong and Trang waters, too,” he added.

— Chutharat Plerin