What’s the story behind vesselfinder?

What was the problem?

Fully loaded cargo ship on the ocean

Way, way back many centuries ago – well, okay, before 2011 – there wasn’t a Imagine that! People who needed to find ships anywhere in the world didn’t have an obvious place to turn, or needed to pay high charges for inflexible services. They could either try their best with the resources that were available, or they could give up. Neither of those were great choices. So, a bunch of determined people decided to do something about it.

The birth of VesselFinder

These were people who had a vision for doing something great. Something that would solve the problem. And they did do something great: they got together and set up VesselFinder. From the very start, these people knew several things. They knew the service had to be of outstanding quality. They knew it had to offer something no existing service could. They knew it had to be simple and intuitive to use. Oh, and it had to be reliable and dependable. No pressure, then.

Who’s behind the service?

Right from the start, the people at realised that trying to do everything themselves was a recipe for total burnout. So, they did the sensible thing. They told people who shared their passion for excellence and service about what they were doing. Before long, they had a large team of people specialising in everything from software engineering to maritime design. Experts have worked on every aspect of VesselFinder.

How does work?

You’ve probably looked at VesselFinder and thought… well, your first thought has probably been “Wow!” We get it, there’s a lot to take in. But after you’ve got over the amazingness of seeing all those little coloured circles and arrows dotted around the world map, you may have started wondering about another question. That question is “How do they do that?”

So, how do you do that?

Surprisingly perhaps, the answer to this question doesn’t involve having millions of people swimming around after the ships and scribbling down locations on a waterproof iPad. That would be great, but it would need a whole lot of people. It’s actually all down to some really cool technology. is built on the Automatic Identification System, or AIS to its friends. Yes, you count as friends! A massive network of receivers all over the globe transmit signals constantly, which the VesselFinder service decodes and turns into the stuff you can see on the site.

What do people use for?

Sea Dream Yacht Club on the ocean and surrounded by jet skies

Now, there’s a question that’s as long as a piece of string. A really, really long piece of string, too. But the short answer is “pretty much anything”. As time has gone on, the VessselFinder team have added more and more services and options, so that now it’s the go-to place for anyone needing fast, reliable information. Whether they’re using the website, social media or an app, the drive to provide the best is the same.

What services are provided? keeps track of more than 100,000 vessels. They can be anywhere in the world, from the Indian Ocean to Canada’s Great Lakes. These positions are updated regularly, each and every day. You can check out which ports a ship has called it, as well as the details of its voyage. You can see where a ship’s been and where it’s heading, with precise and accurate heading and speed information.

Can VesselFinder really offer so much?

Yes – but that isn’t the half of it! The My Fleet facility on VesselFinder Premium allows users to access customised data from selected vessels in a flash. There are clear, colour photos of tens of thousands of ships, as well as handy images showing port infrastructure. Time is money in the maritime business, so the ability to analyse traffic density is crucial – VesselFinder offers that, too. Not to mention a comprehensive maritime news service.

How do people use

However they like! The philosophy is not to tell users what to do with the data, but to give them all the tools they need to choose how to use it. Some people may need to keep a close eye on a small number of vessels, while others might require a broader perspective. In many cases, users will want to access the service on the move, which is why VesselFinder offers clear, fast apps for both iOS and Android.

Flexible search options

Similarly, finding a ship is sometimes easier if you search by its name – but sometimes it’s not. Maybe you only have its MMSI or ISO number. Guess what? You can do that with You can also check a vessel’s details to check you have the right one. Flag, tonnage, year of construction, draught, where it’s going, how fast it’s going, number of crew named Bob… okay, maybe not that last one. But hey, if there’s enough demand then maybe we’ll get working on it!

Who would find interesting?

Cruise Ship Seven Seas Mariner in a harbour with some fishing boats in the foreground

The short answer to that is: everyone! And remember, the site and very many of its features are totally free to use. There’s so much on VesselFinder that, whatever you need from your ship tracking and information service, you’re almost certain to find it. For example:

Ship spotters is a tremendous resource for people in love with ships and the sea. Whether you’re into following giant container ships around the globe, tracking the path of supertankers as their oil deliveries keep the world’s industries running or simply discovering vessels you never knew existed, you can do it with VesselFinder – and all in the blink of an eye.


If you love to travel the world, is for you too. Thinking of heading off on a sun-soaked cruise? See where your voyage will take you and thrill to the names of the exotic ports you’ll be calling at. Wondering what you’ll see if you sail down the English Channel or St Lawrence Seaway? Checking with VesselFinder will tell you.

Ship owners

VesselFinder is the easiest way to keep track of your ships – and not just yours. Find out straight away if your competitors have been using more efficient routes, or calling at new ports to streamline their itineraries. Compare your ships in size, tonnage and age to those of others in your market sector. Use the photo library to see how your fleet resembles, or differs from, the companies you’re up against.

Company managers

You don’t have to work in the maritime industry for to work for you. So many goods travel by sea that anyone trading internationally will benefit from keeping track. You’ll be able to judge how long deliveries will take, whether your rivals are getting them sooner and whether you should think about changing shipping and destination ports.

Where else is comparable technology used? is a pretty impressive service. It’s also something that’s being noticed by more and more people in other sectors, all around the world. It’s therefore not surprising that there’s a lot of interest in using similar tech in other areas. For example:


This great flight tracker site is pretty much the aviation equivalent of VesselFinder. It’s been running since 2006, and since that time it’s developed from a fun hobby to one of the world’s most-used tracking sites. The ADS-B (Automatic Detection Surveillance – Broadcast) tech the site uses does a very similar job to the one AIS does for and means it can also offer tremendous accuracy and reliability. It’s so good that it’s used by major players in the aviation industry.

Rail radar

Tracking technology can help on land, too, and Rail radar applies it to Britain’s rail network. The service offers a great overview of trains all over the country. There’s a clear map that lets you see at a glance not only where trains are, but who operates them. A simple click-through interface gives you immediate access to running information, including to-the-second timings for station stops, as well as any delays.