Ship behavior during encounters in ports and waterways based on AIS data: From theoretical definitions to empirical findings

Yang Zhou*, Winnie Daamen, Tiedo Vellinga, Serge P. Hoogendoorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

50 Downloads (Pure)


Currently, the research on ship behavior during encounters focuses on evasive behavior during specific situations with existing risks of collision. However, the preliminary selection of encounters to refine the presented ship behavior is biased. To obtain a full understanding of all ship behavior during different encounters in ports and waterways, the encounter is defined from the viewpoint of the spatial-temporal co-existence of ships in the same waterway segments during the same period. Based on this definition, this paper investigates ship behavior through the encounter process with other ships. The proposed approach starts from the moment when the distance in between is minimum as the critical moment to recognize ship behavior change (course alteration and speed change) based on the Sliding Window algorithm. Thus, the encounter process is identified by the key behavior feature point into phases, being before decision-making, before the critical moment, after the critical moment, and after being past and clear. The relative movement factors are calculated according to the behavior status of both ships to describe the conditions, timing, and objective of behavior change during the dynamic process of encounters. The empirical findings based on one-year Automatic Identification System data in the port of Rotterdam are presented. In the overtaking encounters, as the give-way ship, about 14% of the overtaking ships do not take any evasive actions. Among the ships with behavior changes, the preference for course alteration and speed change is equal. As the stand-on ship, about 87% of the overtaken ships take cooperative maneuvers to facilitate the encounter, in which deceleration seems the primary choice. The timing of overtaken ship's behavior change is later than overtaking ship. For overtaking ships, the objective of course alteration is a clear passing distance of about 5 times her beam, 100m for overtaken ships irrespective of her own size. Regarding speed, the overtaking ship aims to reach a relative speed of 0.3 times her own SOG, while the objective for the overtaken ship is fixed at around 2–3 m/s. In the encounters of ships sailing in the opposite direction, most of the ships take maneuvers to change their course or speed. However, within the influence distance of 2 km, over 76% of the ships do not take any evasive behavior, which implies a passing-by situation. Based on the recognized key feature points of behavior change, statistical tests show the objective of clear passing distance has been reached beforehand. The behavior change during head-on situations could be due to the precautionary behavior of officers onboard in case of interaction between ships. The findings enrich the knowledge of ship behavior during different types of encounters in real-life navigation, which can be further applied to simulation models for ship behavior in ports and waterways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113879
Number of pages21
JournalOcean Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • AIS data
  • Encounter
  • Head-on situation
  • Overtaking situation
  • Ports and waterways
  • Ship behavior


Dive into the research topics of 'Ship behavior during encounters in ports and waterways based on AIS data: From theoretical definitions to empirical findings'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this