MarineTraffic.com is one of the best tools that you can use in regards to collecting valuable information on various countries. I’ve gotten aquantined with MarineTraffic over the past few years tracking various vessels from all kinds of countries. It has proven to be a valuable asset specifically during Iran’s stretch of seizing foreign vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. MarineTraffic.com provided me with information I needed to determine where the ships were going, and when they were released, it showed me where the ships were going after they were released.
Lets do this!
Before we dive into this, we have to understand that just like with flight tracking, we’re not going to be seeing everything. Just because you aren’t seeing warships in a specific area doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. When it comes to MarineTraffic, what you see is what you get. Also, just because you see a vessel in a specific location doesn’t always mean that the vessel is actually there. It all depends on when the vessel broadcasts it’s location via AIS. If you click on a vessel and look at the bottom of the window that pops up you should see when it last broadcasted it’s position!
In order to get started, head here and you’ll be launched onto the MarineTraffic website. First thing you’ll notice is all of the vessels that are displayed.
On the left, you’ll see all of your various options that you can select on the site. From top to bottom you’ll see the “Search Map” option which allows you to search for a vessel or port (you can do this on the top right as well). Next, you will see your vessel filters. In the filters you’ll be able to filter by vessel type (cargo, tanker, high speed, tug, etc). Typically I leave all of these checked unless I’m looking for a specific kind of vessel. You’ll see other things as well, such as capacity, other particulars, current status, voyage and last position received. I leave all of these where they’re at most of the time. Feel free to adjust things to get it just how you’d like.
Next option is “My Fleets”, which in order to use, you’ll need to create an account. If you’d like to add a vessel to your fleet, you’ll need to sign up for MarineTraffic. My Fleets is nice because it allows you to add vessels to a fleet, which makes it easier to track various ships.
The fourth option on the left is the “Layers” tab. Here you’ll be able to select certain things you’d like added onto the map. Most of the time the only thing I adjust here is the “Map type” option, which I put on Dark map. Map type is an option that depends on the person. I love dark mode everything, so I keep my map dark, it’s easier on the eyes.
Fifth option is weather. In order to adjust anything other than wind barbs here, you’ll need to subscribe to “WeatherMaps” which is $15.92 USD and has a 7 day free trial. Usually I leave this deselected.
Sixth and argubaly one of the most important ones for me is Density Maps. Density Maps will show you the most traveled water ways. It’s useful when you’re trying to see if a ship has been seized by the IRGC Navy in the Strait of Hormuz. When Iran went on a spree of seizing tankers last year, it was nice to see ahead of time if there was a possible problem. Typically I’d follow a vessel if it strayed out of one of the heavily used water ways. If a ship moves out of a heavily used water way, it doesn’t always mean it’s been seized, keep that in mind.
Next useful option is the Playback feature. If you select “Demo” and pick an option from the drop down next to the demo button you’ll get a good idea of how this works. It’s nice to see if a ship has taken a weird route. Came in use nicely when Iran seized tankers (you’ll notice a lot of this throughout the article).
Eighth option is the Voyage Planner. If you input a vessel, and input a targeted port, it’ll show you the distance and route the ship would need to take from it’s current position to get to said port. It’s a useful tool if you’re wondering how long a ship will take to get from point A to point B.
Last we have weather routing, which you need to pay for, so we’ll skip that one.
Using MarineTraffic once you’re aware of the basic settings is really as easy as that. Once you’ve got your filters and your adjustments made, simply find a ship on the map you’d like more information on, and select it. From there, you’ll be presented with various information about the ship. If you’re curious to find more info on the ship, a quick google search of the name of the ship will yield you with loads of information on the ship.