Unhindered Access

On 7 August 2010, the MSC Chitra and the MV Khalijia collided head on near the entrance to Mumbai Port. The MSC Chitra listed, containers fell from her decks and an oil spill from her tanks spread over a distance of more than 2 nautical miles causing pollution to Mumbai’s beaches and closing both Mumbai and Jawaharlal Nehru Ports for several days.

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Clearly, this is precisely the type of incident that a VTS should ensure does not happen. The incident prevented access to the port and thereby delayed many vessels in the offloading and loading of their cargo in Mumbai. In addition to the direct costs associated with the above incident, the closure of the ports added to the costs of other ship owners and may have resulted in a lack of work for port employees during the closure. The report into the incident criticised the level of VTS operator training and the communications between VTS and the Vessels / Pilots. It recommended upgrades to VTS equipment, greater use of channel marking navaids and improved VTS operator training. Improved contingency planning and pollution control was recommended for all ports in India.

To ensure unhindered access requires good situational awareness by the VTS and by the Officer of the Watch on board. Effective communication is also essential if Information and Advice are to be effectively relayed between the VTS and Vessel Traffic. In busy ports, traffic organisational skills are obviously essential and the assistance of Decision Support Tools could aid the VTS Operator in ensuring the optimum solutions are implemented.

VTS Functions

The VTS functions directly affecting the Unhindered Access objective were defined as:
  • Safety of Navigation
  • Efficiency of Vessel Traffic Movement
  • Supporting Maritime Security
  • Supporting Law Enforcement

Whether a VTS operates as an Information Service or as a Traffic Organisational Service, under normal conditions vessels will have unhindered access. Access is most likely to be prevented by an incident that occurs within the VTS area and the provision of systems with good situational awareness and effective communications should provide VTS Operators with the necessary tools to perform their task successfully. Decision Support Tools that enable high risk situations to be identified at an early opportunity are also useful in ensuring the unhindered access objective is achieved.