As stated in IMO (International Maritime Organization) home page-
Vessel traffic services – VTS – are shore-side systems which range from the provision of simple information messages to ships, such as position of other traffic or meterological hazard warnings, to extensive management of traffic within a port or waterway.
Generally, ships entering a VTS area report to the authorities, usually by radio, and may be tracked by the VTS control centre.
Ships must keep watch on a specific frequency for navigational or other warnings, while they may be contacted directly by the VTS operator if there is risk of an incident or, in areas where traffic flow is regulated, to be given advice on when to proceed.
SOLAS Chapter V (Safety of Navigation) states that governments may establish VTS when, in their opinion, the volume of traffic or the degree of risk justifies such services.
There are two main types of VTS, surveilled and non-surveilled. Surveilled systems consist of one or more land-based sensors (i.e. radar, AIS and closed circuit television sites), which output their signals to a central location where operators monitor and manage vessel traffic movement. Non-surveilled systems consist of one or more reporting points at which ships are required to report their identity, course, speed, and other data to the monitoring authority. They encompass a wide range of techniques and capabilities aimed at preventing vessel collisions, rammings, and groundings in the harbor, harbor approach and inland waterway phase of navigation. They are also designed to expedite ship movements, increase transportation system efficiency, and improve all-weather operating capability.
VHF-FM communications network forms the basis of most major services. Transiting vessels make position reports to a vessel traffic center by radiotelephone and are in turn provided with accurate, complete, and timely navigational safety information. The addition of a network of radars, AIS, and close circuit television cameras for surveillance and computer-assisted tracking, similar to that used in air traffic control, allows the VTS to play a more significant role in marine traffic management, thereby decreasing vessel congestion, critical encounter situations, and the probability of a marine casualty resulting in environmental damage.
I am active vessel traffic service operator in Freeport of Riga, Latvia. Like many of my colleagues I has a solid marine background. Eleven years I served as merchant marine navigation officer so sitting in my VTS tower and giving advices and recomendations to inbbound or outbound ships masters I allways try to find mutual understanding.
I like my job very mach and will share my experience and stories with pleasure.
By Andris Lee