Each AIS product needs to be tested and approved by the relevant international and national organisations. This is done by qualified testing houses and certification bodies across the world who carry out strict examinations of the units and, if they pass the tests, award the relevant certificates to the products.

The process for all AIS products is fairly standard – the product is designed by the AIS company and then tested internally before handing it to an experienced, third party, tester who have knowledge of the IMO standards. The device is tested against the IEC specifications to ensure its interopability within the AIS system. Once the product passes their tests, the test reports are given to a certification agency who can award the relevant standard certificate.

Most AIS companies use third party organisations to test and certify their AIS units. The most important test on an AIS devices is to test for interoperability, as each device needs to 'see' other devices to ensure the integrity of the AIS system. Only third party testing houses can fully, and impartially, verify that devices meet the requirements laid out in the IMO standards.

Third party testing houses assure the testing process is as transparent as possible; therefore consumers are safe in the knowledge that what they are buying will do what it is supposed to do and remain interoperable within the AIS system.

It is important that AIS devices are tested by a third party organisation as that gives national marine bodies the confidence that AIS products meet their strict requirements. Approved testing houses offer product testing services accredited by national bodies. They are regularly audited by the national bodies to ensure their procedures are still acceptable.

Once a product is tested, those test reports are handed to a certification organisation - the Notified Bodies - who award the approval. Notified Bodies have the ability to award approvals on behalf of national marine bodies. Drawing on experience in radio and telecommunications, they must assure governing bodies that the devices meet the criteria and will work properly in their waters.

Even minor transgressions from AIS standards can create big malfunctions in the AIS system. This is why it is important to test each AIS device prior to deployment.

AIS certification ensure the technical competence of AIS devices. Certification testing provides a tangible measurement of a device's functionality and features. Certification establishes standards for AIS products and plays an important role in developing competent products that meet national guidelines as well as business and consumer expectations.

Depending on where you are in the world will depend on which certification organisation has checked your AIS unit.  Contact your national marine organisation for a full list of notified bodies.