Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vessel Traffic Services as Information Managers

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by CDR William Burns, chief, Vessel Traffic Services Division, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Shore Forces.

Improving how information is shared with stakeholders
The capabilities and authorities of vessel traffic services uniquely position them as information managers among public and private maritime stakeholders. While some new processes inevitably will need to be developed, each vessel traffic service (VTS) has been collecting, interpreting, and sharing information for many years.

The data a VTS collects varies due to different types of traffic and environment, but the overall information is fairly consistent. Vessel traffic services adopt processes for sharing this information to match the unique needs of maritime stakeholders.

Though each VTS is unique to its operating environment, all are alike in that they provide information services, navigation assistance services, and traffic organization services to enhance navigation safety and marine environmental protection.

Incident Management
A vessel traffic service’s 24/7 monitoring watch makes each vessel traffic center a natural communications hub for mariners and allied shore-based services. In fact, most initial reports to the Coast Guard for incidents in a VTS area are made to a vessel traffic center watch person.

Quick-response checklists and other mechanisms help ensure the response is consistent and coordinated, including the proper transfer of responsibility for incident management.

Public Outreach
VTS directors coordinate services with maritime stakeholders, many times through the local harbor safety committee, to improve traffic management and port infrastructure and protect the economic viability of local businesses.

Continuing Interaction
A VTS’s influence extends well beyond the daily interactions with pilots and vessel masters. It includes all port partners and several not-so-obvious public and private maritime stakeholders, including lightering interests, tow companies, shipping agents, marine exchanges, oil refineries, terminals, carriers, harbor tugs, port authorities, railroads, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, public utilities, maritime construction companies, and multi-modal transportation authorities.

Maintaining these bonds takes a dedicated and consistent effort. For all vessel traffic services, it means meeting the maritime users through ship rides and facility visits, arranging maritime stakeholder VTS visits, and consistently and actively participating in local maritime committees.

Shown are the geographic boundaries of each of the traffic service centers included in the cooperative vessel traffic service (CVTS) for the Juan de Fuca Region. Graphic courtesy of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Full article is available at