UNH is working with the USCG and NOAA to use XML (Extensible Markup Language) to define binary messages for maritime-based AIS (Automatic Identification System). A draft specification format is under development that will enable hydrographic and maritime safety agencies to encode AIS message contents by providing a bit-level description in XML (informally known the "AIS Binary Message Decoder Ring"). An AIS binary message definition in XML specifies the order, length, and type of fields following a subset of that used by the ITU-R.M.1371-1. The specification is independent of programming language (e.g., can be implemented in C, C++, C#, Java, Python, etc.) to allow vendors to integrate the system into their individual design requirements. The draft specification also contains a reference implementation of an AIS XML to Python compiler that has been released as open-source under the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2. A XML schema and an additional program will provide validation of the XML message definitions. A XSLT style sheet produces reference documentation in ‘html’ format. Although the XML message definition file specifies the order, size, and type of the bit stream, it does not specify semantics or how binary messages should be displayed on a shipboard ECDIS, or presented on other shipboard/shore-side display devices.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

U.S. Hydrographic Conference

Conference Date

May 14 - May 18, 2007

Publisher Place

Norfolk, VA, USA


Hydrographic Society of America

Document Type

Conference Proceeding