In July 2010 a Norwegian research satellite for ship surveillance in Arctic areas, the AISSat-1, was launched. Aalesund University College has had access to data from the satellite for study of ship traffic in the Northeast Passage (Northern Sea Route / NSR) during the navigation season in 2010. The traffic and icebreaker operations to the Yenisei river have also been studied throughout the winter 2010/11. Even if this type of satellite surveillance has limitation with regard to continuity and saturation, especially in lower latitudes, the satellite has proved to be a very good tool for surveillance in remote high latitude areas. Coupled with ice information and vessel data the AIS-sat can be of significant value for better understanding of ice distribution, vessel performance, as well as for logistic and economical studies. In this paper the result of the study will be presented and discussed.


Automatic Identification System (AIS) has become an important tool for trafficability studies and risk assessment in coastal areas. The range has been limited by the VHF-band, or approximately line of sight - typical 30 – 40nm. The remoteness and lack of infrastructure in the Arctic and hidden fjord-areas in Norway make such studies very difficult and costly with conventional ground based systems. The Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) and the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment has therefore, in June 2010, launched an AIS-satellite in a low polar orbit for this purpose. The satellite which is considered as an experimental research satellite has already indicated very promising performance in the Arctic. In September 2010 for the first time AIS-data was used to track a merchant vessel in transit from Northern Norway to China via the NSR off the Siberian Coast. The downloaded data provided ID, speed, course, etc. of the vessel and the escorting icebreakers.

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