Vessel traffic services – VTS – are shore-side systems, which range from the provision of simple information messages to ships, such as position of other traffic or meteorological hazard warnings, to extensive management of traffic within a port or waterway.
Generally, ships entering a VTS area report to the authorities, usually by radio, and may be tracked by a VTS control centre.
Ships must keep watch on a specific frequency for navigational or other warnings, while they may be contacted directly by the VTS operator if there is risk of an incident or, in areas where traffic flow is regulated, to be given advice on when to proceed.
SOLAS Chapter V (Safety of Navigation) states that governments may establish VTS when, in their opinion, the volume of traffic or the degree of risk justifies such services.
Vessels Traffic Management Systems are installed in some of the busiest waters in the world are making valuable contribution to safer navigation, more efficient traffic flow, and protection of the environment.
Traffic flow in busy approach routes, access channels, and harbours can be coordinated safely, in the best interest of port and its users. Incidents and emergency situations can be dealt with quickly. Data from traffic movements can be stored and used as reference information for port administration, port authorities, coastguards and search and rescue services.
The VTMS traffic image is compiled and collected by means of advanced sensors such as radar, AIS, direction finding, CCTV and VHF or other co-operative systems and services. A modern VTMS integrates all of the information into a single operator working environment for ease of use and in order to allow for effective traffic organization and communication.
In areas that are covered with VTMS there are certain procedures for vessels to follow such as Area Procedures, Sector Areas, Arrival and Departure Reports, Approach Procedures, Pilotage Procedures and many more.