Appendix B
Excerpt from The National Dialog on Vessel Traffic Services
April 1997

Preamble

In January 1997, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) convened a national dialog with maritime and port community stakeholders1 to identify the needs of waterway users with respect to Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) systems or other means of ensuring the safety of navigation in U.S. ports and waterways.2 The stakeholders, representing all major sectors of the U.S. and foreign-flag maritime industry, port authorities, pilots, the environmental community, and the USCG, were asked to provide guidance on the following issues:

  • the information needs of a mariner to ensure a safe passage;
  • the process that should be used to identify candidate ports for the installation of VTS systems; and
  • the basic elements of a VTS, where such a system is determined to be necessary.

A list of all participants in the stakeholder dialogue is attached. Under the auspices of the Marine Board of the National Research Council (NRC), the group held four meetings between January and March 1997. This document is not an official report of the NRC, which has neither endorsed nor taken any other official position on its contents.

The national dialog was intended to provide the foundation for the development of an approach to VTS that would meet the shared government, industry, and public objective of ensuring the safety of vessel traffic in U.S. ports and waterways, in a technologically sound and cost-effective way. It is important for the United States to move forward in developing and implementing such an approach so as to remain at the forefront of maritime safety.

Underlying Premises

The responses of dialog participants to the specific questions posed to them were based on the following underlying premises:

  • The primary goal of a VTS system is to ensure the safety of vessel traffic in U.S. ports and waterways and to protect the marine environment by ensuring that the mariner has the information necessary to prevent or avoid collisions, allisions, and groundings. By promoting safe navigation, a VTS also fosters the goal of efficient navigation. A VTS should have the capability to interact with traffic and respond to traffic situations in its area.
  • Existing aids to navigation; charts, radar, VHF radios, publications, and other navigation tools; pilotage systems; navigation regulations, including the International and Inland Navigation Rules; current licensing and training requirements for mariners; existing navigation management systems; and existing USCG regulatory authority and enforcement practices make a significant contribution to the safety of navigation in U.S. ports and waterways today. These existing tools serve to ensure a high level of safety and environmental protection, and therefore, VTS systems are not needed in all ports.
  • In some ports, additional tools may be necessary to ensure an acceptable level of safety and environmental protection. These tools may include a VTS system. The specific needs of individual ports to ensure safe

1  

These stakeholders included: the Natural Resources Defense Council, U.S. Chamber of Shipping, American Association of Port Authorities, Passenger Vessel Association, Council of American Master Mariners, American Pilots Association, American Waterways Operators, INTERTANKO, and U.S. Coast Guard.

2  

This summary uses the International Maritime Organization (IMO) definition of VTS as "a service implemented by a competent authority designed to improve 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." In its proposed Guidelines for VTS, the IMO defines "competent authority" as "the authority made responsible, in whole or in part, by the government for the safety, including environmental safety, and efficiency of vessel traffic and protection of the environment."



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--> Appendix B Excerpt from The National Dialog on Vessel Traffic Services April 1997 Preamble In January 1997, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) convened a national dialog with maritime and port community stakeholders1 to identify the needs of waterway users with respect to Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) systems or other means of ensuring the safety of navigation in U.S. ports and waterways.2 The stakeholders, representing all major sectors of the U.S. and foreign-flag maritime industry, port authorities, pilots, the environmental community, and the USCG, were asked to provide guidance on the following issues: the information needs of a mariner to ensure a safe passage; the process that should be used to identify candidate ports for the installation of VTS systems; and the basic elements of a VTS, where such a system is determined to be necessary. A list of all participants in the stakeholder dialogue is attached. Under the auspices of the Marine Board of the National Research Council (NRC), the group held four meetings between January and March 1997. This document is not an official report of the NRC, which has neither endorsed nor taken any other official position on its contents. The national dialog was intended to provide the foundation for the development of an approach to VTS that would meet the shared government, industry, and public objective of ensuring the safety of vessel traffic in U.S. ports and waterways, in a technologically sound and cost-effective way. It is important for the United States to move forward in developing and implementing such an approach so as to remain at the forefront of maritime safety. Underlying Premises The responses of dialog participants to the specific questions posed to them were based on the following underlying premises: The primary goal of a VTS system is to ensure the safety of vessel traffic in U.S. ports and waterways and to protect the marine environment by ensuring that the mariner has the information necessary to prevent or avoid collisions, allisions, and groundings. By promoting safe navigation, a VTS also fosters the goal of efficient navigation. A VTS should have the capability to interact with traffic and respond to traffic situations in its area. Existing aids to navigation; charts, radar, VHF radios, publications, and other navigation tools; pilotage systems; navigation regulations, including the International and Inland Navigation Rules; current licensing and training requirements for mariners; existing navigation management systems; and existing USCG regulatory authority and enforcement practices make a significant contribution to the safety of navigation in U.S. ports and waterways today. These existing tools serve to ensure a high level of safety and environmental protection, and therefore, VTS systems are not needed in all ports. In some ports, additional tools may be necessary to ensure an acceptable level of safety and environmental protection. These tools may include a VTS system. The specific needs of individual ports to ensure safe 1   These stakeholders included: the Natural Resources Defense Council, U.S. Chamber of Shipping, American Association of Port Authorities, Passenger Vessel Association, Council of American Master Mariners, American Pilots Association, American Waterways Operators, INTERTANKO, and U.S. Coast Guard. 2   This summary uses the International Maritime Organization (IMO) definition of VTS as "a service implemented by a competent authority designed to improve 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." In its proposed Guidelines for VTS, the IMO defines "competent authority" as "the authority made responsible, in whole or in part, by the government for the safety, including environmental safety, and efficiency of vessel traffic and protection of the environment."

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--> navigation may vary given port and waterway traffic characteristics. However, certain common elements of a VTS (where such systems are deemed necessary) may be applied. The decision to establish a VTS in a given port should be made cooperatively by the USCG and the port user/ stakeholder community. It is not the intention of dialog participants to invalidate existing navigation safety systems established by states, pilot associations, or other entities but rather to provide guidelines for the implementation of future VTS systems. Every mariner has the responsibility to operate vessels in a safe manner. In addition, the USCG has the statutory obligation to ensure the safety and environmental protection of U.S. ports and waterways. The USCG is the federal agency with primary responsibility for ensuring port safety and as such should play the leading role by ensuring that the mariner's navigation information needs for safe passage are being met. Waterways users are seeking enhanced navigation capabilities that would be compatible with new VTS systems but that would also have utility beyond a VTS-covered area. Safe navigation and environmental protection outside of port boundaries—in coastal waters, rivers and other inland waterways, as well as on the high seas—are equally important. Dialog participants strongly endorse the widespread use of Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) employing Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) and onboard transponder technologies. These technologies provide a foundation for effective navigation safety, both within and outside areas where VTS systems are determined to be necessary. They also provide for improved vessel-to-vessel information exchange in ports and waterways in which no VTS system is established. Dialog participants believe that national use of AIS technology on the greatest number of vessels is essential both as a foundation of a VTS system, where such a system is necessary, and as the basis for improving navigation safety. Dialog participants strongly urge the USCG to take the lead both domestically and internationally in developing equipment and procedural standards that will promote universal use of AIS technology. Although port conditions and user/stakeholder needs may favor the establishment of VTS systems in selected ports, dialog participants believe that widespread use of AIS can serve as an effective navigation safety system. Basic Information Needs of a Mariner to Ensure a Safe Passage Dialog participants identified the following as the basic information needs of a mariner to ensure a safe passage: up-to-date knowledge and/or information regarding the route to be transited; timely, relevant, and accurate information about other vessels within the area that might affect safety or the decision making of the mariner (this information should include vessel identity, type, size, position, course, and speed); timely information about emergency and environmental conditions that might affect safety or the decision making of the mariner; reliable bridge-to-bridge communications; and transmission of relevant information to the mariner in a manner that does not distract from the task at hand, particularly in narrow, confined channels where there is heavy traffic. Existing navigation aids and tools, pilotage systems, navigation management systems, and regulations may be sufficient to provide this information effectively to a mariner given the characteristics of a particular port. Factors to be Considered in Determining Whether a VTS is Necessary As noted above, dialog participants agreed that existing navigation aids and tools, pilotage systems, navigation management systems, and regulations may be adequate to meet a mariner's information needs for safe operations in a given port. Dialog participants agreed that the process of determining whether a VTS is necessary in a particular port should include the USCG and port users/stakeholders. Questions to be considered in making this determination include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following: What existing local navigation management systems are in place and how effective are they? What are the existing or likely future conditions in the port with respect to traffic density, traffic patterns, and complexity of traffic or vessel movements? What are the sizes, types, and numbers of vessels operating in the port area? What is the history (including the causes) of accidents, casualties, pollution incidents, and other vessel safety problems within the port area? What are the physical limitations of the port? What types and amounts of hazardous or environmentally sensitive cargoes are transported within the port? What are the prevailing conditions and extremes of weather and oceanography in the port? What are the environmental, safety, and economic consequences of having or not having a VTS within the port?

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--> Dialog participants agreed that the USCG should use these questions to conduct an initial screening and identify ports which might be candidates for a VTS. Port users/ stakeholders should be engaged to consider these questions in more detail and to determine whether a VTS is in fact necessary in a given port. Basic Elements of a VTS Where the USCG and local stakeholders determine that a VTS is necessary, dialog participants identified several basic elements that such systems should include. Within the framework provided by these elements, local variations may be needed to meet the particular needs of a given port community. However, vessel-based equipment required for participation in a VTS should be consistent from one port to another and should have utility outside port boundaries. Where the need for a VTS system has been identified, it should include the following elements: A VTS should be based upon AIS technology as a means to provide timely, relevant, and accurate navigation information to the mariner. Widespread use of vessel transponders that use DGPS for positioning is essential to a VTS system for three reasons: AIS technologies will improve safe navigation both inside and outside of a VTS area; Information collection and transmission by the VTS will be less intrusive and distracting to the mariner than will a voice-based control system; and, DGPS-based transponder systems are gaining worldwide acceptance as an effective and cost-effective means of vessel-to-vessel and vessel-to-shore information exchange. Local conditions may require the use of other surveillance and communications technologies. With emphasis on minimizing distractions, the common goal of dialog participants, including the USCG, is to fully employ AIS technology to minimize voice communications in a VTS area. Dialog participants believe that use of AIS technology should largely obviate the need for USCG-to-vessel voice communication except in navigation emergency situations. The VTS system should be as transparent to the mariner and to the USCG as possible. AIS technology should be applied in a cost-effective manner using commercially available technology in an open architecture. Successful implementation of an AIS-based VTS system will depend on adherence to the following guidelines: The federal government should develop and distribute accurate electronic navigation information, including up-to-date navigation charts in electronic format; DGPS broadcasts; and, timely updates of information, including USCG Notices to Mariners, in electronic format where appropriate. The USCG should develop standards for reliable, electronic vessel-to-vessel and vessel-to-shore information exchange that minimize voice communication and that can provide essential information to the mariner both within and outside designated ports or VTS areas. Standards should be performance-based, allowing the use of technology and equipment that is commercially available on a competitive basis. Information system requirements should be compatible nationwide and, preferably, internationally. Timely and appropriate emergency and environmental information should be provided in a compatible format. To be effective, a VTS system should be implemented by a competent authority. The USCG's involvement, at a minimum, means the promulgation and enforcement of minimum technical standards, promulgation and enforcement of on-board equipment requirements, and responsibility for securing, if necessary, adequate spectrum capacity for operation of the system. USCG involvement in a VTS system should not preclude VTS partnership options and cooperative arrangements with other entities such as state governments, port authorities, or pilot associations. The competent authority's fulfillment of statutory obligations and enforcement of mandatory participation may require some level of shoreside oversight. The level of oversight needed will vary from port to port; however, this oversight component should take full advantage of AIS technology as the primary means for monitoring waterway activities and vessel movements in the port to avoid potentially burdensome and costly systems. In general, dialog participants believe that use of AIS technology will greatly reduce the number of shoreside personnel and other resources needed for effective involvement in a VTS. The USCG's use of VTS to accomplish related missions and responsibilities should not interfere with the primary goal of promoting safe navigation. VTS systems should be compatible with international guidelines for VTS. Participation (including the carriage of AIS-compatible equipment and technology) should be mandatory for vessels identified in 33 CFR Part 161 (all vessels greater than 20

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--> meters, vessels greater than 8 meters while engaged in towing, and vessels certified to carry 50 or more passengers).3 Attachment C-1 Additional Comments of The Natural Resources Defense Council April 24, 1997 The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has the following additional comments to make regarding the National Dialogue on Vessel Traffic Services Summary Guidance document, dated April, 1997. NRDC represented by Sarah Chasis participated in the national dialogue, convened by the U.S. Coast Guard, to discuss Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) systems to enhance safety for our nation's waterways. On page 3 of the draft Guidance document, we have problems with the wording of the last sentence of the first full paragraph ("Although. . .). We favor substituting the following sentence: "The stakeholders believe that AIS has utility both as the foundation of a VTS system (where such a system has been determined to be necessary) and as the basis for improved vessel-to-vessel information exchange in ports and waterways in which no VTS system is established." We believe this better reflects the value of Advanced Information Systems—either as a basis for a VTS system or for improved navigational safety in the absence of a VTS system. We do not believe that AIS is a substitute for VTS systems. On page 4, we have problems with the suggestion in each of the paragraphs that the Coast Guard and port users determine whether a VTS is necessary in a particular port. The Coast Guard has the legal duty to protect safety and the environment in the nation's waterways and, therefore, it must be the one to determine whether a VTS is necessary. This determination should be made in consultation with "local stakeholders" (who, we believe, should include environmentalists and other interested in protecting the marine environment), but ultimately it is the Coast Guard who must decide. Finally, in the discussion on the last page regarding what constitutes a VTS, it should be made clear that a VTS system provides for control over vessel movements by the competent authority, that it requires shoreside oversight of vessel traffic and that, while AIS technology may be an integral part of VTS, it is not always necessarily the primary means of monitoring vessel movements. We appreciate this opportunity to provide these additional comments. 3   According to 33 CFR Part 161, vessels greater than 40 meters must participate but vessels greater than 20 meters must monitor the system. To monitor an AIS system, a vessel requires the related equipment. Therefore, participation is in effect required of vessels greater than 20 meters