Daily Android App: Marine Traffic


Have you ever sat on the beach and wondered where that boat gliding along in front of you is going? Or coming from? I have.

We recently spent the day down on the beach, and living at the end of the Thames where it joins the North Sea, seeing freighters and tankers pass is a very common sight. However, this time, we saw a beautiful sail ship in full sail heading for London. Looking though binoculars, we could see it had a french flag on the back, but couldn’t see the name. I tried to look up on the internet on my phone if there was any mention of what boat it was and where it was going. I couldn’t find anything. So, being the geek that I am, I looked to see if there was “an app for that”. Lo and behold, I found Marine Traffic.

Every triangle is a ship/boat

This app will pin point your location through GPS and then show you all the boats you are looking at. Within seconds of downloading the app, I had found the vessel which had disappeared round the coast and found it was a French Sailing ship from Brest. It had sailed from Brighton that morning, round the southern coast of Kent and was heading to London (we assumed for the Olympics). Not only that, but it also showed me pictures taken by professionals and users alike.

The app achieves all this because it is using the GPS location from the boat which it is broadcasting for safety reasons (used by radar and emergency services alike I believe) much like the transponder on an airplane.

All ship types are displayed by different coloured icons so it’s easy to pin point which one you are looking for. You can also turn certain ship types off so that you don’t get overwhelmed by information and multiple icons (Zoom into a busy port like Portsmouth or Calais and you’ll see what I mean).

If you find a particular vessel you want to track (like I have in the example below with P&O’s Spirit of France) you can add it to something called “My Fleet” which will store all the boats you have added as a favourite so you can easily find them later. This will require you to log in to Marine Traffic website (which you can access through the app). It’s free, and can allow you to upload your own pictures from their website later. Just a word of warning, turn off email notifications first, or you’ll end up with an inbox clogged with emails every time your favourites do something.

The Android app is currently free as it is in beta. I have the iOS version on my phone and they have more or less the same capability, although the iOS version is a paid app. Whether they will make the Android version paid for when it exits beta, I cannot answer. So get it now, before you have to pay, it’s good fun!

Marine Traffic is available as a free app on Google Play Store