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.
Shortly before the festive break the IMO Assembly held its 32nd session and adopted a resolution proclaiming an International Day for Women in Maritime, to be observed on 18 May each year.
This observance will celebrate women in the industry and is intended to promote the recruitment, retention and sustained employment of women in the maritime sector, to the profile of women in maritime, to strengthen IMO’s commitment to UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality) and to support work to address the current gender imbalance in maritime.
The resolution invites IMO Member States, the maritime industry, and all others in the maritime endeavour to promote and celebrate the International Day for Women in Maritime in an appropriate and meaningful manner.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said: ‘This day for women in maritime will further efforts to achieve SDG 5 on gender equality. It is a perfect follow-on action to the 2019 theme of empowering women in maritime and the Assembly resolution adopted in 2019.
At the 74th session of the IALA Council in December, as part of a policy to support the vital work of IALA members around the world, issue was approved of two recommendations, twelve guidelines and three model courses.
Here below the documents are listed and may be downloaded at no charge:
Revised R0139 The Marking of Man-made Offshore Structures Ed3.0.
Revised R0126 The Use of AIS in Marine Aids to Navigation Ed2.0.
Revised G1078 The Use of AtoN in the Design of Fairways & Channels Ed2.0.
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