Marine Exchange AIS Project History

Prepared for:

California Department of Fish and Game,
Office of Spill Prevention and Response

Prepared by the Marine Exchange of the San Francisco Bay Region

Table of Contents

Project Overview and Summary

Appendix A: List of Acronyms

Appendix B: List of Illustrations/Graphs

Appendix C: UAIS regulatory schedule

1. History an Organization of the Joint Partnership Program (JPP)

The AIS Committee

The PLN Committee

2. Introduction to AIS

3. The Future of AIS

Universal AIS regulatory movements

The Enhanced AIS Concept

4. AIS Scope of Work

Segment 1: System Installation and Operation

Segment 2: System Evaluation

5. PPU Scope of Work

Segment 1: PLN Equipment Procurement and Pilot Training

Segment 2: PLN System Evaluation

6. JPP Evaluations


Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3 ? Focus Group Session


7. Identified Beneficiaries of AIS


Port Stakeholder

Govt. Agencies

General Public

8. AIS/PLN Project Summaries and Conclusions

Project Overview and Summary

The San Francisco Marine Exchange (SFMX) has provided assistance to the local mariner for the past 150 years. In that course of time, the SFMX has been on the cutting edge of technology as it related to many areas of the safe and efficient transit of commercial shipping in the region. A few examples would be the first telegraph on the West Coast to communicate vessel arrivals and the creation of the first Vessel Traffic Service in 1960, in which the U.S. Coast Guard later assumed responsibility. More recently, the establishment of the OSPR Vessel Escort Clearinghouse, an entity used to notify mariners of escort related information and to assist in safe passage of tankers. Many of the SFMX efforts are related to assisting the needs of individual mariner, as well as collectively responding to the maritime industry to increase the level of safety and efficiency as it relates to the commercial and environmental concerns of the San Francisco Bay Region. With this record of history and experience, the Department of Fish and Game, Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) approached SFMX with the challenge of identification, installation and development of new technologies that will assist in an increase of regional navigation and environmental safety.

The San Francisco Bay Region is unique in the respect that it presents a great diversity of navigational challenges. It has many miles of winding rivers that can limit the use of radar and narrow channels that require precision navigation and often shoal. It also has extreme changes in weather, visibility, wind, tides and currents that a mariner can experience on any one transit. The San Francisco Bay also has a large and ever growing high speed ferry fleet that produces well over 2000 transits per year. Lastly, the region also has a wide diversity of both public and private ports, ferry operators and agencies that often make it extremely difficult to develop any project that meets the approval of all. Taking in all these considerations, the San Francisco Marine Exchange established the Joint Partnership Project (JPP) and embarked on a mission to determine and apply best usage of OSPR grant funding to respond to these issues.

The JPP was concluded that the best use of the proposed grant funding was to install, test and develop an Automatic Identification System (AIS). OSPR agreed with the JPP, and earmarked approximately Five Hundred and Eighty Thousand Dollars of Grant funding for the project. These funds were primarily used for the procurement and installation of AIS and navigation equipment, with the emphasis on preparing an evaluation it on its overall merits. The system merits were scrutinized as they apply to the diversity of needs of safety for the mariner and environment, as well as those concerns of the regional port stakeholder.

All mariners and agencies involved in commercial shipping understand the critical nature and importance of safe navigation. The simple economics of one casualty greatly outweighs the technological cost of preventing it. Conversely, it is also quite difficult to introduce a new technology onto a vessel bridge. The maritime environment can be quite harsh and if not properly supervised, dangerous. Because of this, any new technology must be approached with a high degree of skepticism and care. It is due to this careful approach, the empirical results from this project, to the untrained mariner, might at first glance seem to be less then conclusive. However, taking into consideration the challenges related to the rapid introduction of a new technology, that in some regards is still in its infancy, in an environment such as the maritime industry, the JPP concurs that the results are impressive and support the reports conclusions.

With these all these issues in mind, it is the opinion of the JPP, based on the data presented in this report, agree that the project has been very successful. The JPP also encourages the continued development and increase use of AIS as a tool to enhance and improve already existing equipment and data that is currently available, in order to provide the best achievable protection of the mariner, the environment and the general public.

Appendix A: List of Acronyms


Automatic Information System


Bridge to Bridge Radio Act


Course Over Ground


Closest Point of Approach


Electronic Navigation Chart


Federal Communication Commission


Global Maritime Distress and Safety System


Global Positioning System


Hazardous Materials


Incident Command


International Maritime Organization


Joint Partnership Program


San Francisco Vessel Mutual Assistance Program


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response


Oil Spill Response Organization


Personal Pilot Unit


Physical Oceanographic Real Time System


San Francisco Bar Pilots


San Francisco Marine Exchange


Speed Over Ground


Safety of Life at Sea


Universal Automatic Information System


U.S. Coast Guard


Vessel Traffic Controller


Vessel Traffic Service



Appendix B: List of Illustrations and Graphs

Fig.1 AIS Vessel Navigation Information

Fig.2 AIS Navigation Display

Fig.3 Current and Enhanced AIS Project Organization

Fig.4 Phase One AIS Evaluation Ratings

Fig.5 Phase Two ? AIS Use in Reduced Visibility

Fig.6 Phase Two ? AIS Use for Navigation Safety

Fig.7 Phase Two ? AIS Use for Traffic Management

Fig.8 Phase Two ? Time to Set Up AIS Equipment

Fig.9 Phase Two ? AIS Usefulness vs. Operation Requirement

Fig.10 Phase Three ? AIS Focus Group Topic Ratings

Fig. 11 PPU System Comparison

Appendix C: AIS Regulatory Implementation Schedule

International Maritime Organization - AIS Carriage

All passenger ships, other ships of 300+Gross Tonnage on International Voyages

Cargo ship of 500+ Gross Tonnage not on international voyages

Schedule of Implementation
    • Ships constructed on or after July 1, 2002 ? Required
    • Ships on Intl. Voyages & built before July 1, 2002
    1. Passenger Ships and Tankers by July 1, 2003
    2. Other then Tankers 50K+ GT by July 1, 2004
    3. Other then Tankers 10k-50k GT by July 1, 2005
    4. Other then Tankers 3k-10k GT by July 1, 2006
    5. Other then 300-3000 GT by July 1, 2007
    6. Ships not on Int?l voyage & built before July 1, 2002

??Required ??? by July 1, 2008



Domestic Carriage ? U.S. Coast Guard (Estimated)

    • Vessels greater then 20 or 40 meters
    • Towing Vessels greater then 8 meters
    • Vessels carrying more then 50 passengers
    • Dredges and Floating Plants
    • Vessel covered by the Bridge to Bridge Radio Act (Possible)
Schedule of Implementation
    • Proposed Rules ? Summer 2001
    • Earliest Requirement ? 2002

Additional information can be found on the Internet in the report: U.S. Coast Guard Plans of Universal AIS.




1. History and organization of the Joint Planning Partnership (JPP)

In 1998 when grant funding from OSPR was identified for the development of new technologies to increase the level of vessel and environmental safety, the SFMX was approached by OSPR with the challenge to organize such a project. Immediately, the SFMX invited individuals from a diverse cross section of the maritime community to participate in this endeavor and the Joint Planning Partnership (JPP) was established. The JPP consists of 16 individuals from the maritime industry representing areas of ferryboat operations, tug/escort companies, barge operators, container and dry cargo vessels, San Francisco Bar Pilots and government agencies. The function of the JPP is to provide experience and oversight to the SFMX for the purpose of assuring the grant funds and the project was managed properly. The JPP held regular meetings and decided to split the AIS project into two groups: the AIS Committee and the Personal Pilot Unit (PPU) Committee. The two subcommittees were responsible for establishing a project scope of work and project development; then report their progress back to the JPP Committee.

A - The AIS Committee is made up of a diverse group of individuals that represent the stakeholders of the AIS portion of the project. The committee is comprised of seventeen people from a cross-section of the industry who are highly experienced with the operational aspects of the maritime community. They were also chosen because this is the area where AIS technology has the greatest influence and effect. The first responsibility of the AIS Committee was to develop a request for proposal for the procurement of an AIS system. The second responsibility was to assure the proper installation, testing and operation of the system. The third responsibility was to perform an evaluation based on the requirements of the OSPR Grant and prepare conclusions based on their findings.

B - The PPU Committee is unique in that its primary focus is on the AIS issues related to special needs of the San Francisco Bar Pilots (SFBP). The pilots work in an environment that is extremely mobile, the working conditions are often hazardous and they require a higher degree of skill and experience. Because of this, the PPU committee was formed to consist of 8 people: four bar pilots, and one member each from the AIS committee, the U.S. Coast Guard, OSPR and SFMX.

The responsibilities of the PPU Committee are similar to those of the AIS Committee. However, their task was to not only evaluate the merits of the AIS concept, but also to compare several different PPU based on each system?s specific strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the day-to-day operations and needs of the San Francisco Bar Pilots


2. Introduction to AIS

AIS can be characterized as a great mirror in the sky. If the sky was a mirror, and it was a very clear day, one could look up and see a reflection of one?s surroundings. You could see all other vessels as they move in relation to your own vessel providing a single situational picture. Also, all the other users of the system could also look up and see that very same situational picture. AIS is this and much more. It not only provides a display to all the system users of the physical vessel traffic situation; it also provides key navigational and operational information as per the requirements of the users. For example all the users can display static information of each display target such as the name, type and size of vessel data that is not usually available through standard radar. They can also obtain real time information such as the speed over ground (SOG), course over ground (COG) and the destination of other vessels. In short, AIS is a system that provides each user a picture of the navigational information that all other participants are using.

How does the basic AIS perform this task? It starts with the Global Positioning System (GPS). The GPS is a network of many satellites that are in orbit around the earth and they transmit a signal similar to a pulse or a clock. The shipboard GPS transponder/radio receives that signal and calculates the time differences between the various satellites pulses, at least six for accuracy within 10 meters, to determine an exact location of the vessel in longitude and latitude. That data is then directly input into the ship?s AIS computer. The AIS computer combines the GPS location information with other vessel related data such as name, course and speed (Fig.1) and transmits it, via VHF radio, to the AIS Vessel Traffic Controller (VTC). The VTC is a communications hub, normally located on an appropriate mountain peak (Mt.Tamalpais in the San Francisco Bay Area) that receives, organizes and combines all the transmissions of all the AIS vessels and then rebroadcasts the data back out so that all the vessels share the same data. When the AIS vessel receives the data from the VTC, it then displays it on the computer monitor with an Electronic Navigation Chart (ENC) (Fig.2). If for any reason the VTC site fails to work properly, all the AIS vessel transponders automatically shift to work in ship-to-ship mode.



Highlighted AIS Vessel Navigation Information

  • Vessel Name
  • Vessel Type (Tug, Passenger Ferry etc.)
  • Vessel Course Over Ground (COG)
  • Vessel Speed Over Ground (SOG)
  • Vessel Position (longitude and latitude)
  • Vessel Length
  • Vessel Draft
  • Vessel Destination
  • Vessel Range and Bearing



3. The Future of AIS

A. Universal Automatic Information System (UAIS)

There are several movements in the maritime regulatory environment to standardize the AIS equipment to be installed on all vessels called the Universal Automatic Information System (UAIS). The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is expected to cover all "Safety Of Life At Sea" (SOLAS) vessels, e.g. large tankers and containerships. Another regulatory requirements may be for domestic carriage; mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard. It will likely apply to domestic vessels including those that fit within the "Bridge to Bridge Radio Act" (BBRA) e.g. tugs. It makes complete sense that the regulatory agencies develop a set of minimum AIS standards so that all vessels operating in any port can communicate at a basic level. However, those UAIS Standards are at least one year from being approved, five to six years from complete installation and are limited in scope.

The UAIS standards are considered to be a basic set of standards, and are most often employed at sea. However, each port has its own special needs and a "one size fits all solution" may not provide the best regional achievable protection. For this reason, there are other agencies that have evaluated the AIS concept and developed additional requirements that further increase the safety of their local port regions. The AIS Committee is also taking into consideration the lessons learned from other regional AIS projects, using that pool of shared information and applying it to the San Francisco Bay Area project. Use of this strategy is an example of the AIS Committee?s commitment to develop the AIS project on a parallel path with international and federal agencies to assure complete integration with UAIS. The committee also intends that the current project in the San Francisco Bay will add to the general pool of knowledge for the other regional AIS projects. More importantly, it will respond to the unique issues of the San Francisco Bay Region and will provide the basis for an "Enhanced AIS Project."

IMO ? International AIS Carriage - July 2002 with a phase-in to 2007

FCC ? AIS Equipment Type Certification - Expected completion Jan 2002

USCG ? Domestic Carriage - July 2002 with undetermined phase-in

(For a more detailed explanation see appendix C)


B. The Enhanced AIS Concept

The previous AIS description is only the beginning. The "cookie cutter" approach to serving the needs of each port are not enough. There are many specific information needs of the mariner within each region, and AIS is an excellent platform to provide them. One component of the San Francisco Bay Project is to explore those possible enhancements from both the perspective of the mariner?s needs for improved safety and the feasibility to reliably provide each enhancement using current or imminent technology. The initial key enhancements that are to be explored in this project are the distribution of hydrographic and meteorological data and the population of additional vessel target data from the U.S. Coast Guard, Vessel Traffic Service (VTS). This data is to be integrated into the VTC, and then transmitted to the AIS vessels at the same time as the normal broadcast, as shown in the AIS System Organization Chart. (Fig.3)

The hydrographic and meteorological data is collected from the Physical Oceanographic Real Time System (PORTS), also currently being operated by the SFMX and approved by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This data includes tide, current, salinity, wind speed and direction. The VTS target information is similar to the basic AIS data that is collected by radar and is expected to provide the AIS vessel with a complete picture of all vessels in operation in the San Francisco Bay whether they carry AIS transponders or not. This is the main feature that will not only bridge the gap between partial vessel participation, which is expected until carriage requirements are mandated, but will also move the test project into a broader operational phase.


The Current and Enhanced AIS Project

There are a number of enhancements that can be applied to the AIS technology. Particular ones worth mentioning are vessel route and ETA calculations for port logistics; vessel equipment inventories for Hazmat /Incident Command (Fire and Police) and Internet information delivery of fleet assets for a more efficient use of resources and the movement of commuters and commerce. The development of these enhancements of the AIS project are outside the current scope of work and budget of the San Francisco Bay Project. However, with the AIS technology is in its infancy, we felt it was important that these enhancements be explored during the evaluation portion of this project to identify additional beneficiaries of the AIS technology.


4. AIS Project Scope of Work

The initial goal of the San Francisco Bay AIS project consisted of two segments. The first segment, "System Installation and Operation", was to supply the greatest number of vessels that represent that best cross section of local commercial maritime interests within the allotted grant budget from OSPR. The second segment, "System Evaluation", was to evaluate the operation of the AIS system in the following five areas of interest: Vessel Traffic Management, Vessel Navigation Safety, Reduced Visibility/Night Navigation, Bridge Resource Management and Overall Vessel Operation. The evaluations were used to develop the conclusions that are included at the end of this report.

Segment 1: AIS System Installation and Operation

The first responsibility of the AIS was to develop a request for proposal for the procurement of an AIS system. Initially, that proposal required that equipment be provided from two different manufactures, one being the integrator of the two different equipment designs. Because of the infancy of the technology and the uncertainty of international and federal carriage requirements, it was impractical for any manufacturer to expend the capital outlay for cross system integration. Since the that initial strategy failed, it was decided to commit to the procurement of one system that would provide the most AIS features, at the lowest cost, as well as adapt to any future AIS developments. The choice was made to purchase the Ross Engineering AIS system.

The AIS Committee then established set up the criteria for acceptance of participants for the AIS evaluation. In order to identify the proper vessel participants, the committee initially developed a list that could best achieve an appropriate cross section of local port stakeholders. The list of stakeholders was then expanded in terms of vessels they operated that were the most active in both transits and geographic scope. The maritime industry concerns that were solicited for participation were: large commercial vessels (Tanker), high speed ferrys, high frequency ferrys, high passenger capacity vessels, tanker escort vessels, government vessel, large oil barge, tug & tow and ship assist vessel.

Based on that information a list of vessels to solicit for participation was then created. Then after a contract for AIS project participation was developed and agreed to by each vessel participant, twenty-two AIS units were delivered and installed on each vessel on or about September 2000.


AIS Participant Vessel Roster w/type


Name Type Name Type

Andrew Foss

Escort Vessel

Mare Island

High Speed Ferry

Delta Deanna

Escort Vessel


High Speed Ferry

Delta Linda

Escort Vessel


High Speed Ferry

S/R Mare Island

Escort Vessel


High Speed Ferry


Govt. Vessel

Tug Mars / 450-11

Large Commercial Barge

California Hornblower

High Capacity Passenger

S/R Galvestion

Large Commercial Vessel

Ferry Golden Gate

High Frequency Ferry

Clean Bay II

Oil Spill Response Org.

Bay Breeze

High Speed Ferry


Ship Assist Vessel

Del Norte

High Speed Ferry

Claudia Foss

Ship Assist Vessel


High Speed Ferry

Silver Eagle

Ship Assist Vessel


High Speed Ferry

Marin Twilight

Tug and Tow

In September 2000 agreements were made between the SFMX, Maritel Inc., Tug Communications and American Tower Corporation for the installation and operation of the Vessel Traffic Control (VTC) site on Mt. Tamalpias. The VTC site began operation on October 15, 2000. After some minor adjustments to the equipment and system training by the SFMX, the participants were tasked with acclimation and operation of the AIS system while maintaining a written log for future evaluation purposes.

Segment 2: AIS System Evaluation

This next task of the AIS Committee was to develop an evaluation process that would respond to the needs of the grant requirement from OSPR. Since this task was specific in nature and required time, it was decided to form a small work group was formed of from the AIS Committee. This was to achieve a group that could work more closely, more often and focus specifically on evaluation issues

AIS technology is a new tool for the mariners and there are still many questions in regard to its assisting or actually being a hindrance to the mariner. To address this, the Evaluation Work Group developed an evaluation process that was presented in three phases. The first phase focused on the initial acclimation and participant response to AIS. The second phase was a direct closed-loop feedback to assure constancy in operator input and forming reality based development goals. Also part of the first and second phase was to begin defining quantifiable measures for the five areas of interest. The third phase of the evaluation comprised of a user focus group. All participants were required to attend so the Evaluation Work Group could both develop a consensus-based response to the five areas of interest, and identify potential future beneficiaries of the AIS technology.


5. Personal Pilot Unit (PPU) Scope of work

The goals of the PPU Committee were similar to that of the AIS Committee system. The first, "Procurement and Training" was to choose the PPU?s that would best serve the needs of the pilots within the allotted budget and to establish proper training for the pilots to operate the AIS systems. In addition to determining the systems to be selected, the PPU Committee also requested 8 pilots test and operate the PPU?s. The second goal "System Evaluation" was to evaluate each system and prepare conclusions based on the pilots? experience.

Segment 1: PPU Equipment Procurement and Pilot Training

The first responsibility for the PPU Committee was to prepare a Request for Proposal to identify possible manufacturers from whom to procure PPU systems. Since there are very few manufacturers that produce a PPU, the initial search for procurement was somewhat less difficult then the AIS Committee search. After a set of system demonstrations, the PPU Committee decided on four different systems to evaluate. The four systems, and the features that each has the PPU Committee felt warranted closer evaluation are as follow: (1) Ross Engineering ? Current AIS integration, (2) Starlink Inc. ? High definition channel surveys developed by the Army Corps of Engineers, (3) ARINC Inc. Kinematic Heading that provides true heading rather then course over ground, (4) Transview Hybrid ? Vessel traffic situational data in a 2.5 lb. package.

During the development of the PPU Scope of work, the committee also recommended that some of the grant funding be directed to pilot AIS system training and acclimation. This was based on the logic that the pilots could provide a much better evaluation of the PPU?s if they had more overall experience of the technology as a whole. Four pilots were sent to Maritime Institute of Technology for a one-week training course. The systems were subsequently delivered to the San Francisco Bar Pilots and the evaluation of each system commenced.


Segment 2: PPU System Evaluation

Since the needs of the pilots are somewhat different from that of the AIS participants, it was decided, in the first step, to use an evaluation that was developed by the American Pilot Association. This evaluation was used to determine the utility of each PPU on its own particular merits and also help the pilots to focus on issues relating to the PPU technology. After that step, the pilots were also asked to complete the same questionnaire as the AIS participants, in regard to how the PPU systems apply to the same five areas of interest of AIS. The results are detailed in the next section of this report.


6. JPP Evaluations

A. AIS System Evaluation ? Phase One, Initial System Definition

It was expected that the level of technical skills that each project participants had would greatly vary. The first goal of Phase One was to increase the level of computer savvy of those participants that needed it, and to acclimate all the participants to the AIS system features. In effect, attempt to standardize the knowledge and skills of all the system users. This was accomplished by "one on one" training and a log entry process that encouraged the users to become familiar with the system.

Since the Evaluation Work Group required a format to track acclimation and usage, it was decided that the log data reflect the basic use of AIS by the participants. (I.e.: time of system use, weather conditions, ports called, scale used and number of transits). Through this data log the work group collected a base set of information for the scope of the system use for development of the second phase evaluation.

The logbooks contained an initial evaluation so the work-group could obtain preliminary sense of the system?s utility, and also determine if it was creating a bridge distraction or over-reliance by the participants. The evaluations asked the participant to quantify the initial response to the AIS by entering a number from +10 representing the level of assistance and -10 representing a hindrance that AIS placed on the mariner (Fig.4). The participants could also provide anecdotal comments or suggestions that would assist in the development of system elements included in the second evaluation. The comments were also presented to Ross Engineering for further AIS development and system upgrades.

Phase One of the evaluation was initiated with in October 2000 and operated for approximately sixty days. Initially, given the maturity of the technology and its alien nature, there was some expectation that the evaluation responses would be unfavorable. To the contrary, the participant responses to Phase One were very encouraging with the overall system utility rated at +4.4. The following are the logged results:


  • Logged transits ? 2209
  • Scale commonly used 2-16 miles
  • Weather conditions ? Varied
  • Preentered route - 26% Y 74 % N


Aspect Rating helpfulness:scale of -10 to 10

Vessel Traffic Management


Bridge Resource Management


Vessel Navigation Safety


Reduced Visibility Navigation


Highlighted AIS Participant Comments ? Phase One

  • Include all commercial vessel traffic in system (already anticipated)
  • Night screen too bright
  • Charts are poor and lack definition
  • Transponder periodically interferes with ships radio
  • Target update rate too slow at high speeds
  • Increase target data fields (i.e. Pilot Designator, ETA, Vessel Draft)


AIS System Evaluation ? Phase Two, System Quantification

The second phase of the evaluation was initiated on January 1, 2001 and lasted for approximately 30 days. The evaluation work group prepared an evaluation that was divided into two parts.

Part 1 addressed the negative comments from the first evaluation to confirm and quantify their validity. The work group felt that is was important to get more specific information on what was perceived as the system deficiencies. Each issue was defined as (A) Regularly occurring, (B) Occasionally occurring, (C) Rarely occurring, (D) Never occurring. The results from Part 1 confirmed that with the exception of lack of vessel participation, night screen glare and poor charts, most of the observed issues occurred only rarely or never.

Part 2 of the evaluation employed the same reporting structure to quantify the responses of the participants (A through D). However, it focused on the four issues of Reduced Visibility/Night Navigation, Vessel Navigation Safety, Vessel Traffic Management and Bridge Resource Management. - It is important to point out that, when reading the graphs, occasional use is actually a high rating because it is expected that AIS the system be used in a similar fashion as other bridge tools. Only occasionally and only when needed.

In the first graph, "Reduced Visibility"(Fig.5), the participants responded that the system both was useful as a tool for reduced visibility, as well as increasing their confidence level of situational data from other sources such as the radar. In the next graph, "Navigation Safety" (Fig.6), The participants indicated that the AIS system was relied upon to make navigation decisions with rare instances for route planning. The third graph "Traffic Management" (Fig.7), it was evident that the AIS assisted the mariners to a high degree for situational traffic management and to make maneuvering decisions. In addition, the AIS had also assisted the mariner in communication with the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) to a lesser degree. The results for Bridge Resource Management were inconclusive which we believe was due to the fact that most participants maintained only one person on the bridge. This was further explored in phase three of the evaluation.

The Evaluation Group was very pleased with these results because the mariner was using the system in a manner consistent with other bridge tools such as the radar and the compass. It also further defines that utility of the system as a tool for traffic management.

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