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Capt. Tuncay Çehreli*

In recent times, “more benefits of the VTSs” are being spoken and many studies carrying out to determine “what and how can it be done”  while the positive effects and contributions of VTS observed on the vessel traffic.

                First of all, we should look at the definition of the VTS on IMO Resolution A. 857(20) (Guidelines for Vessel Traffic Services) as a reference to this essay; “VTS is a service implemented by a competent authority, designed to improve the safety and efficiency of vessel traffic and to protect the environment. The service should have the capability to interact with the traffic and to respond to traffic situation”. It is very clear that the main purposes of the VTS are to improve the safety and efficiency of vessel traffic and protection of the marine environment from possible adverse effects of maritime traffic in a VTS Area. And its functions in general are being able to interact with vessel traffic and respond to traffic situations.

Dealing with the benefits of the VTS in the aspects of VTS State and VTS users, better and helpful results could be attained about development of VTS and expectations.


VTS State;

The types and level of the benefits that VTS State may obtain from the VTS mostly related to the implementation process of the VTS.

The State or Competent Authority who follow IALA Recommendation V-119 “On the Implementation of Vessel Traffic Services” should lunch a study which should contain the following five phases before considering the establishment of a new VTS or enhancement of an existing VTS.

1- Inception phase; the inception phase is intended to answer the question of whether active traffic management is the appropriate means to address the problems. This phase includes a preliminary risk assessment and in some cases may be enough to identify whether to proceed further. The possible traffic problems could be related to:

                               - The interaction of maritime traffic

                               - Volume and mix of traffic and cargo

                               - The local conditions like geography, hydro/meteo, tides, current and weather

                               - Sensitivity and protection of marine environment and surrounding area.

2- Feasibility and Design phase; The FD phase is intended to identify the functional requirements of the VTS such as delineating VTS area, environmental aspects, system users and their requirements and of course technical specifications.

3- Formal Risk Assessment phase; The FRA phase is intended to confirm that the measures being designed and introduced will reduce the risk of accidents in the area to a level considered.

4- Coast / Benefit Analysis phase; The CBA phase is intended to identify whether the expected reduction in risk would be justified in terms of level of investment required. Both the additional direct or indirect benefits and prospects that a VTS might offer, including additional value added services for the traffic in the future as well as the benefits to shore based port operations, should be taken into consideration.

5- Implementation phase; this phase comprise tender procedure, purchasing, building, legislation, organisation, recruitment-training-certification of personnel and trial operations.

The main benefits of implementing a VTS are that it allows identification and monitoring of vessels, strategic planning of vessel movements and provision information, navigational assistance and traffic organisation services. Bu it can also assist in reducing the risk of pollution, coordination pollution responses, coordination search and rescue operations, security measures and low enforcement. These additional functions of VTS may be planned on establishing or required after became operational.

Determining of the additional functions and identification of their requirments are the key factors for service quality that should be taken into consideration while establishing a VTS. Because, If additional functions of VTS had not been taken into consideration while determining system requirment such as software and hardware, personnel and their training and operational procedures, the level of the services quality may not reach to required level and workload of VTS may increase. But it has to be taken into consideration that the different technology and demands may bring some additional functions at any time for VTS. So, technical and operational structure of VTS should be open for developments and upgrades as much as possible.


Participant Vessel;

The more the technology in VTS, service and operational personnel quality and experience increase, the more the authorities’ and ship masters’ trust to the VTS increase. Obtaining the trust of the authorities and participants are the goals and also honourable for any established VTS. Increment and providing high service quality are essentials but from the operational point of view, the decline in the field of service quality or operational weakness of a trustworthy VTS may cause unpredictable risks.

The vessel’s benefit from the VTS at the highest level strongly depends on level of interaction between VTS and vessels and accuracy of the exchanged data. A participating vessel should provide all standard and required information at the right time and accurately to the VTS. Otherwise especially during emergency situations participants’ benefit from VTS would be inadequate.

For example; In a narrow waterway a ship master’s delay to declare his/her vessel’s engine problem on time or even misguiding the VTS which is asking the reason of speed reduction, may cause the further delay of taking measures and additional services and increase of risk.

Naturally, users of the VTS are vessels. From the service quality point of view, besides VTS operational personnel with a good knowledge regarding ships and their manoeuvring characteristics also the ship masters and officers of the watch should have sufficient knowledge about VTS and its services. Under the light of our observations at Istanbul Strait which is one of the most risky waterways in the world with dense international and local vessel traffic, we can say that more than half of the ship masters knowledge regarding VTS services and its objectives has been observed to be insufficient.

For example; A ship master immediately commence to find excuses when he receives a message commences with the message marker “information” and telling that his vessel is navigating out of traffic separation scheme limits. However, instead of this reaction he should be cooperative and answer as ‘understood’ then evaluate the situation when he receives this kind of message for the safety of his vessel. The root cause of this behaviour is their wrong impression concerning VTS is not serving them but monitoring and reporting their improper actions. In other words, this situation can be defined as the lack of “interaction” that arises from the vessel which takes part in the definition of VTS.


Allied Services;

The allied services take more advantage of the VTS even though they are not direct participants of VTS. The services demanded by the allied services can be considered as additional functions of the VTS. These additional functions have adverse effects on the workload and service quality of VTS unless assigned before.

The services demanded by the allied services can be different from the routine VTS operations which serve their own purposes. Therefore it should be considered that in order to provide the services to them, different technology and infrastructure could be necessary.

For example; today technology is sufficient to provide a ship agent the schedule and passing information of his vessel to the mobile phone by SMS, MMS or all passing information of the vessel may be sent to the authorized addresses by e-mail automatically and without causing additional work load to VTS.

The main approach to this matter is the services demanded by allied services should not increase the work load of VTS. Present technology enables this. These kinds of services have great potential to improve and definitely not to be underrated but should be carefully separated from the main functions of the VTS and its normal work load.


Neighbour VTSs and Port States;

In order to enhance maritime safety and efficiency in a VTS area, information share should be provided by the port states and VTS with the neighbour ones. Especially sharing port state control and VTS information are important necessities considering risk management. Actually implements on this subject should be done in a large platform that contains VTS and should have features that answer all requirements. For the time being, there are some serious works and progress on this subject regionally.

Consequently, the more the technology, knowledge, experience, reliability, personnel quality and service improve, the more the services provided by VTS improve too. One of the necessities is informing the ship masters continuously about progress and definition of services in order to benefit from them. More over, a voluntary VTS user certificate training may be considered for ship masters and/or officers of the watch. 


*Capt. Tuncay CEHRELI
Mng.of Istanbul VTSC and IALA Councilor

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