VTS Operations

There are two principle types of Vessel Traffic Service, these are either an Information Service or a Traffic Organisational Service. These are defined in IALA Guideline 1089. In addition, there is the option that the VTS might provide a Navigation Assistance Service. However, in terms of equipment to provide a VTS system, the difference is not significant. Situational awareness through effective target detection, identification and tracking together with the ability to communicate with vessels at sea are essential elements of every VTS system. Therefore there is a certain core equipment suite that forms the central components of a VTS system regardless of the type of service that is to be provided.

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The choice of either an Information Service or a Traffic Organisation Service will be driven by the results of the risk analysis for the VTS area with higher risk situations adopting a Traffic Organisational Service. The selection being based upon the level of advice and assistance that vessels are deemed to need in order to safely navigate the VTS area and arrive at their destination. The World VTS Guide includes a VTS Finder that provides details of the VTS services of specific ports and coastal administrations. VTS communication with vessels is normally preceded by Message Markers to inform the Master of a vessel about the content of the information he is about to receive. These aim to overcome language difficulties and promote better understanding of the true meaning of the information being communicated. The eight standard message markers are: Information; Warning; Advice; Instruction; Question; Answer; Request and Intention. These are defined in IMO Resolution A.918 (Standard Marine Communication Phrases). The usage of the message markers is likely to vary depending upon the level of service being provided by the VTS Authority.