Nautical safety on Dutch inland waterways, a study to detect anomalous vessel behaviour based on AIS data

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Currently, inland waterway safety assessments rely heavily on historic accident data and expert opinions, often lacking comprehensive qualitative and quantitative information. Addressing this gap, this thesis introduces a method based on Automatic Identification System (AIS) data to identify anomalous vessel behaviour for enhancing safety assessments.

The proposed methodology establishes definitions of normal vessel behaviour and identifies deviations from these norms as anomalies. Analysing vessel trips recorded in AIS data logs, various features—including speed, acceleration, direction, manoeuvrability, and positional attributes—are extracted to define vessel behaviour.

The Uniform Manifold Approximation and Projection (UMAP) algorithm reduces the multidimensional features into a two-dimensional embedding to condense the vessel behaviour into a manageable form. This reduction technique preserves the inherent behaviour while representing similarities within a 2-dimensional space. Subsequently, the K-means clustering algorithm is applied to group vessels displaying similar behavioural patterns. The hyperparameters for clustering are determined using the elbow method and multiple scoring metrics.

Application of this methodology to the Moerdijkbrug at the Hollands Diep and Schellingwouderbrug at the IJ reveals clusters with similarities in vessel direction and paths. Several atypical patterns were observed and further investigated, analysing less than 1% of the data set in both cases, revealing two distinct patterns classified as probable accidents in the IJ case. These findings demonstrate the potential of the proposed method in identifying specific vessel behavioural anomalies with implications for safety assessment on inland waterways.