A revisit of the definition of the ship domain based on AIS analysis
Journal article, 2019

When ships approach each other, they should keep a minimum area around them clear of other vessels in order to remain safe. The geometrical shape of this area has been studied since the early 1970s and is defined as the ship domain. The progress in computer capacity since then and the introduction of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) provides the potential to further investigate the size and the governing factors of the domain. This investigation revisits and proposes a method using data based on 600,000 ship encounters at 36 locations. It is concluded that the ship domain has the shape of an ellipse with half axis radii of 0.9 and 0.45 nautical miles. However, there are two factors that greatly affect the ship domain: how large the area is that is used to gather vessel intersections and whether they are constrained by water depth. In contradiction to some previous research, it is found that the ship domain is unrelated to the length of the ship.

AIS data

Ship domain

ship behaviour


Axel Hörteborn

SSPA Sweden AB

Jonas Ringsberg

Chalmers, Mechanics and Maritime Sciences, Marine Technology

Martin Svanberg

SSPA Sweden AB

Henrik Holm

SSPA Sweden AB

Journal of Navigation

0373-4633 (ISSN) 1469-7785 (eISSN)

Vol. 3 72 777-794

Socio-economic cost savings through risk assessment of ship collisions with transport infrastructure

VINNOVA, 2016-12-01 -- 2019-12-01.

Subject Categories

Other Computer and Information Science

Marine Engineering

Areas of Advance

Information and Communication Technology


Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Innovation and entrepreneurship


Basic sciences



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