What is the Automatic Transmitter Identification System (ATIS)?

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Written By Martin C

If you head out into European water often, then familiarizing yourself with the Automatic Transmitter Identification System (ATIS) is essential. All vessels voyaging though European waterways are required to utilize this system. In fact, it’s the law. So, in order to avoid any misunderstandings, let’s take a look at what ATIS is all about.

What is ATIS?

The Automatic Transmitter Identification System, abbreviated as ATIS, is an innovative system which is used on, and assigned to, navigable waterways in Europe. It is used for identifying ships and boats that made a radio transmission. It is  a key way to communicate and stay safe while out at sea.

ATIS utilizes frequency shift keying which enables a signal to continue being broadcast for 285 milliseconds after the user has released the PTT button. This complements its prominent efficiency, as it allows the signal to be transmitted on the same VHF channel as the voice communication, unlike DSC transmissions which take place on Channel 70 solely.

How Does ATIS Work?

While traveling on the various European waterways, you are going to be using the ATIS as a primary source of communication. At the conclusion of every broadcast, your VHF marine radio sends out a short transmission. This unique signal starts with the number 9 and the three maritime identification digits for the specific country. It is sent to the coast guard and inland stations and contains your ship’s ATIS call sign.

Following this, your ship’s identity is stored in a special database which is maintained by the “Belgisch Instituut voor Postdiensten en Telecommunicatie”, which translates from Dutch to the “Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications”. Through the Basel Arrangement, ATIS is now mandatory for vessels passing through inland waterways of participating countries which include:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Luxemburg
  • Moldova
  • The Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Switzerland
  • Serbia & Montenegro

Summarizing ATIS

As you can see, the Automatic Transmitter Identification System is one spectacular way of identifying all ships within the mentioned waterways. It is vital that you acknowledge the required compliance obligations. A vessel’s radio license needs to be modified and an ATIS number must be issued.

With ATIS installed, an immediate difference is noticed in the way your radio operates, as there are no buttons that need to be pressed in order to activate it. This function is entirely automatic once programmed into your radio. Upon getting this done, both you and surrounding countries will have no concerns, so be sure not to ignore it.