Clean Seas and Waterways


In many ways, this is the part of the IALA objectives that is given the lowest level of importance when a VTS solution is being developed. However, it can be the most expensive to resolve if an incident should occur. In general, the risk of a pollution incident is low, but should that mean that this objective can be ignored? Running the risk that an oil spill will not occur may save some expenditure at the time of VTS acquisition, but if a spill does occur, then the cost will be many multiples of the initial “saving.” As a port provides the interface between the sea and the land, a pollution incident within the VTS area could therefore cause damage to the land itself as well as to some land based wildlife and various habitats. Environmental protection is a hot political topic and incidents of pollution frequently require careful public relations management to limit the impact upon the port and its business.

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VTS Functions

The VTS functions directly affecting the Clean Seas objective were defined as:

  • Safety of Navigation
  • Efficiency of Vessel Traffic Movement
  • Protection of the Marine Environment
  • Supporting Law Enforcement
  • Protection of adjacent communities & infrastructure
Pollution can be caused by a collision or by accidental or deliberate dumping. Pollution from vessels is often not discovered until it is found on the coastline many hours after the vessel has departed the area. This provides a problem for Law Enforcement and so it is clear that if pollution incidents are to be handled effectively the important criteria are early detection and the ability to contain the pollutant before it spreads uncontrollably. In addition, if early detection can be implemented then it may be possible to identify and arrest the polluter before he leaves the area.

Safety of Navigation and efficiency of Vessel traffic Movement are essential to minimise the risk of collisions that could pollute the marine environment. However, Protection of the Marine Environment and adjacent communities and Infrastructure requires effective early warnings when any pollutant is released and effective law enforcement to deal with the incident.

How can a VTS ensure Clean Seas?


There are various sensors available that can detect oil or other pollutants in the water and recent technology has also provided a means of using radar to detect pollutants. As this is now proven and available technology, any spill within coastal waters, or a VTS area, could be detected early to avoid the spill spreading out of control. A VTS can therefore now be configured to fully meet all of the IALA VTS objectives. It could even be a valid charge that a port without Oil Spill Detection technology could be considered negligent if a spill within its waters is not detected early and contained.