Vessel traffic service

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VTS Nijmegen, monitoring the river Waal in the Netherlands
Sign telling mariners to contact the Port of London VTS as they enter the Thames Barrier control zone

A vessel traffic service (VTS) is a marine traffic monitoring system established by harbour or port authorities, similar to air traffic control for aircraft. The International Maritime Organization defines VTS as "a service implemented by a competent authority designed to improve the safety and efficiency of vessel traffic and protect the environment. The service shall have the capability to interact with the traffic and respond to traffic situations developing in the VTS area".[1][2] Typical VTS systems use radar, closed-circuit television (CCTV), VHF radiotelephony and automatic identification system to keep track of vessel movements and provide navigational safety in a limited geographical area.

In the United States of America (USA), VTSs are established and operated by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Navigation Center. Some VTSs in the USA operate as partnerships between USCG and private agencies.

VTS personnel[edit]

The VTS guidelines[3] require that the VTS authority should be provided with sufficient staff, appropriately qualified, suitably trained and capable of performing the tasks required, taking into consideration the type and level of services to be provided in conformity with the current IMO guidelines on the subject.

IALA Recommendation V-103 is the Recommendation on Standards for Training and Certification of VTS Personnel. There are four associated model courses V103/1 to V-103/4 which are approved by IMO and should be used when training VTS personnel for the VTS qualifications.[4]

Information service[edit]

An information service is a service to ensure that essential information becomes available in time for onboard navigational decision-making.

The information service is provided by broadcasting information at fixed times and intervals or when deemed necessary by the VTS or at the request of a vessel, and may include for example reports on the position, identity and intentions of other traffic; waterway conditions; weather; hazards; or any other factors that may influence the vessel's transit.[4]

Traffic organization service[edit]

A traffic organization service is a service to prevent the development of dangerous maritime traffic situations and to provide for the safe and efficient movement of vessel traffic within the VTS area.

The traffic organization service concerns the operational management of traffic and the forward planning of vessel movements to prevent congestion and dangerous situations and is particularly relevant in times of high traffic density or when the movement of special transports may affect the flow of other traffic. The service may also include establishing and operating a system of traffic clearances or VTS sailing plans or both in relation to priority of movements, allocation of space, mandatory reporting of movements in the VTS area,routes to be followed, speed limits to be observed or other appropriate measures which are considered necessary by the VTS authority.[4]

Navigational assistance service[edit]

Navigational assistance service is a service to assist onboard navigational decision-making and to monitor its effects.

The navigational assistance service is especially important in difficult navigational or meteorological circumstances or in case of defects or deficiencies. This service is normally rendered at the request of a vessel or by the VTS when deemed necessary.[4]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ National Research Council. 1996. Vessel Navigation and Traffic Services for Safe and Efficient Ports and Waterways: Interim Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  2. ^ Vessel Traffic Services, Official website of IMO
  3. ^ Vessel Traffic Services manual, Edition 6 (2016), International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities
  4. ^ a b c d VTS Manual IALA, Edition 6

External links[edit]