Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
The IMO defines a Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) as 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 situations developing in the VTS area. The IALA VTS Manual states that “The realities of modern shipping, with larger and less manoeuvrable ships, traffic congestion in ports and waterways, hazardous cargoes and the potential for environmental damage, demanded that sophisticated measures be taken to reduce risks. Establishing Vessel Traffic Services was and still is a significant response to that demand”.
The IMO identifies three types of service that can be provided by a VTS:
The title of each service in each case is largely self-explanatory. In its simplest form, a VTS may provide basic information on which the master of the vessel bases his own decisions without further intervention from ashore. More usually, however, a VTS is also directly involved in the organisation and management of vessel traffic within its area of responsibility. As part of these services, the VTS should provide an oversight of the navigational safety of vessels and provide navigational assistance and advice if appropriate.
The VTS should be manned by personnel nationally certificated to the internationally recognised IALA V103 course standard. The types of service provided by a VTS will be promulgated in appropriate hydrographic publications.
IALA is a non-profit, international technical association. Established in 1957, it brings together authorities concerned with marine aids to navigation, as well as manufactures and consultants from all parts of the world, and offers them the opportunity to compare their experiences and achievements. IALA’s aim is to harmonize aids to navigation worldwide and to ensure that the movements of vessels are safe, expeditious, cost-effective and harmless to the environment. VTS documentation and standards in the form of standards, recommendations, guidelines, brochures and the VTS Manual are available free of charge for download under the “Publications” tab on the IALA website.
Aids to navigation can take the form of fixed or floating marks that may be lit or unlit, including lighthouses, leading lines, buoys and beacons. A vessel traffic service (VTS) can also be categorised as an AtoN, albeit a very sophisticated and relatively costly one. The mix of AtoN used in a port or waterway is determined by means of a risk assessment, which takes into account the local geography, traffic patterns, vessel size and manoeuvrability, local hydrographic conditions and weather patterns. IALA publications include guidance on maintenance and location of AtoN.
Opened by Agnes Wong Tin-yu, Director of Marine for Hong Kong SAR, today’s Nautical Institute International Conference 2019 gave rise to a lively and stimulating debate on the subject of Shiphandling.
Held at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, the morning session included presentations on the legal consequences of shiphandling incidents, special considerations for handling large tankers, handling ships in heavy weather and how digital technologies support command decisions in shiphandling.
In the afternoon delegates were invited to consider the role of simulator and computer based training in shiphandling and also heard from senior pilots working at the ports of Shanghai and Shenzhen. The closing presentation from Capt Stephen Wong of the Hong Kong Pilots Association focused on changes in shiphandling techniques in Hong Kong harbour.
Addressing delegates, Capt Nick Nash FNI president of The Nautical Institute, said:
”Shiphandling is obviously one of the core skills for any shipmaster. This conference has given us all further insights into this skill and the repercussions if we get it wrong!”
“Training is the key, along with proper mentoring while at sea. The collaboration and integration of Bridge teams, Pilots and VTS, while making full use of new technologies will ensure that shiphandling lies at the heart of safety and best practice in the maritime industry.”
Early in June two warships from the Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1), Turkish frigate TCG Gokova and from the Royal Navy HMS Westminster successfully completed an important training mission in support of joint warfighting logistics. Our illustration has been kindly provided by
NATO Maritime Command (MARCOM) © www.mc.nato.int/media-centre/news
It was reported from NATO Maritime Command at Northwood, NW London, that the two NATO ships escorted a civilian cargo vessel, mv Gute through high- traffic sea lanes during her transit from Norway to Sczecin, Poland carrying Norwegian military equipment for NATO exercise Noble Jump.
The safety and security of sea-based trade and transportation routes is critical to the prosperity of the Baltic nations and the NATO Alliance.
Escort training, such as that practiced by Gokova and Westminster, enhances interoperability among NATO and commercial shipping and provides reassurance to NATO allies and partners that NATO is capable and ready to maintain freedom of navigation in the Baltic Sea.
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